by Rich Moreland, March 2015
The Submission of Emma Marx: Boundaries is Jacky St. James’ sequel to her award-winning masterpiece, The Submission of Emma Marx which I had the pleasure to review in three parts here in August 2013. With cinematic partner Eddie Powell, St. James now boldly continues Emma’s odyssey.
Before moving into the film, it’s worth mentioning that sequels are financial risks. Though supportive of her project, New Sensations President Scott Taylor was cautious. “Sequels often flop.” St. James remembers him telling her. “They don’t sell as well. They seldom find that magic of the original.”
Perhaps, but in the case of Boundaries it is every bit as good as it’s older sister and I encourage watching the first film before enjoying the second. If not, the viewer will feel like a late arriving movie goer who takes a seat half way through a story with no understanding of its origin.
Boundaries‘ success is complemented by the reassembled cast. Penny Pax reprises her role as Emma, as does Richie Calhoun as Mr. Frederick. Though porn flirts with the edges of mainstream Hollywood, both players remind us its acting can be every bit as good. Pax is learning her trade, building a resume that separates her from adult’s usual “just give me the sex and don’t ask if I can act.” No doubt St. James’ directing is a crucial factor in the diminutive model’s professional evolution.
Riley Reid is perfect as Nadia and Van Wylde likewise as Ray. Their roles are not an easy sell because Reid and Wylde must come across as a vanilla “cookie cutter suburban couple” snug and homey in their conventionality.
In making the film, St. James confesses that “staying true to Emma and her sexual journey” could not be compromised. The result is Emma as a complexity that intrigues the viewer on various levels. I can imagine that her shadow seductively passes through the corridors of St. James’ mind just as she does in the film’s opening credits and its denouement.
Conceding that her “screenplays hold very deeply personal connections to experiences I’ve had or people I’ve known,” Jacky St. James faces a near impossible task with Boundaries, write a flawless script that moves Emma along bit by bit while confronting the viewer with unsettling issues. The question that captures the film’s raison d’être and St. James’ good storytelling is simple: Does sexual and emotional turbulence reach a satisfactory resolution that spells the end of the story?
Or, is there room for Emma redux, part three?
One thing is evident, Boundaries’ tightly written script is worthy of industry accolades. Indeed, it is as close to impeccable as an adult film can be.
Part of News Sensation’s Erotic Stories line, this second Emma Marx falls into the couples porn genre, yet it is sexually groundbreaking for a date night film. The carnal scenes are integral to the story; nothing is thrown together or gratuitous. Some of the action, however, directly challenges the formula for what the industry touts as comfortable for lovers. But more on that later.
Just Drawing Lines
Emma Marx and Nadia are sisters whose relationship is close considering their sexualities are anything but. In the first Emma Marx, Nadia and Ray “silently judged” Emma’s fetishes. Now they are outspoken, letting her know of “their aversion” to BDSM.
Is this progress?
Over a bland vegan dinner she believes is suitable for everyone (one size fits all, if you will), Nadia announces she doesn’t understand why being tied up and spanked is not abuse. Deprecating BDSM kinkiness with her sappy smile and haughty attitude, Nadia tacitly reinforces her normalized sexuality in a way only modern moralists can appreciate. When Emma mentions consensuality, she is ignored. In an amusing moment, Ray condemns suspension and cattle prods while disgustingly holding a fork with two pieces of the vegan mystery food hanging from it. The real torture in this scene is inflicted on Ray.
But, apparently the happily married duo is not opposed to a little experimentation.
With the superficiality of a Valley Girl who thinks a sip of wine makes her a connoisseur, Nadia announces to Emma the next morning, “Ray and I totally tried BDSM last night and I’m totally a sub.” Kudos to Emma for respecting her sister’s asinine interpretation of sexual enlightenment.
Here’s the story. In the film’s first sex scene with Nadia and Ray, a blindfold is about as deviant as they get. (She does ask him if she can call him “master” in a laughable attempt to identify with what Emma authenticates.) Having now seen the light while not being able to see, Nadia tells Emma she “completely” understands what a BDSM relationship is all about.
Incidentally, the sex is classic Riley Reid, who is an industry gem. Considering it’s a script-driven vanilla encounter–necessary to set up Emma’s future sexual experimentation–Riley’s smile, spirit, and energy carry the show. On the wall bedside the bed is a black and white photo of two flowers that lord over the sex in front of it. The flowers are blurred, an important image for this film.
Later when the sisters are in the gym, understanding suddenly vanishes. As she gives the elliptical machine a workout, Nadia is clearly irritated. “Trying BDSM was the biggest mistake of my life.” Now Ray wants a three-some, but Nadia slammed the door on that idea, proclaiming that men put women in “sexual situations solely for their benefit.”
Emma’s hint that Ray might want to expand Nadia’s horizons falls flat. “Men do that,” a fired up Nadia says. “They pretend it’s all about you and it’s really about them. They wait for the moment you say, ‘yes,’ and they push your limits.” Annoyed with Emma’s suggestion that Ray wouldn’t cheat, Nadia digs in. “I’m just drawing lines.”
But doesn’t everybody?
Open to New Experiences
Nadia’s indignation spurs Emma to confront her own crisis. Mr. Frederick has presented her with a new contract which she reads line by line in an earlier scene. It is a quest for “Why can’t we have it all?”
When she reviews the contract, equality and symmetry are visually emphasized to reflect the supposed state of their relationship. Emma is sitting on a long desk with her legs extended to a Mr. Frederick who massages her feet. The shot has perfect balance regarding the desk: two half full glasses of red wine on each end and a pair of tall plants in floor urns on either side of it. In the background, French doors halve the scene like the entrance into a Georgian manor.
As this segment progresses, brief glimpses of Emma and Mr. Frederick’s encounters are revealed as she goes through the contract.
In one, symmetry is repeated when she talks about training. It is a shot of interior French doors at the end of a hall. Framed prints are on opposite walls to balance the scene. Mr. Frederick leads Emma from left to right across the screen, moving her symbolically from an old definition of her sexuality to a new experience.
“I will not just play the role,” Emma says in reference to being a submissive, “I will become the role.”
When she is bound to pillars in the kitchen a la Fay Wray in King Kong, Emma says, “my body is his to do with as he pleases.”
Incidentally, in the provision having to do with enjoying her orgasms, there is a quick flash of them having sex in a hallway that doglegs to the right, an image that is revisited later.
When Emma gets to the item that involves having sex with other people, she balks. Tense and unsure, she asks if he is bored with her, that fatal relationship blow everyone fears.
This moment sets up the rest of the film. Mr. Frederick orders her to stand up, face him, and masturbate while thinking about someone who sexually arouses her. With eyes closed, she confesses it is Shane (Logan Pierce), the new guy in the office. Emma loses her bearings in a rush of endorphins and says, “I wonder if he’d like me.” Projecting her sexual preferences into Shane, Emma says he’d be down and dirty and insist on violating her with anal.
It’s the opening Frederick wants and sex scene number two begins with anal its focal point, a clear break from the couples’ porn formula. To emphasize this shift, Eddie Powell moves his camera over Richie Calhoun’s shoulder to get the standard male masturbatory gonzo shot of a kneeling Penny Pax, mouth at work and adoring eyes looking upward.
St. James and Powell have a dual purpose with this scene. For story purposes, Emma’s exploration is picking up steam, but on another level, they are forging a new path in romance porn. The bondage remains light, adhering to the submission pornography genre popular in today’s market, but the sex is edgier.
Several questions in the film are present here. Mr. Frederick claims he is turned on by Emma’s self discovery, but is he engaging in his own fantasy of whoring out Emma and role playing Shane? In her mind, is Emma mocking her sister, knowing Nadia would never be this unconventional? Or does this exercise add to the unpredictability of Emma relationship that keeps it from getting stale?
There is a deeper question. Is Mr. Frederick gently and firmly nudging Emma forward or is he applying subtle pressure with the bet that Emma’s devotion will give him carte blanche to ratchet up his demands?
Or perhaps what Frederick tells her is straightforward and eerily true. “You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do. I just want you to be open to new experiences.”
At any rate, as Mr. Frederick anally penetrates his submissive, Emma sees and feels the new guy in her imagination. Before the pop, she begs, “Cum on me please, Shane.” Is Emma transitioning to a new experience or enjoying a healthy fantasy?
Whatever St. James’ intention, the scene explores the emotional complexities of BDSM characteristic of submission pornography, or what might be called in today’s culture, bondage chic. For raw sexuality, it steps beyond the inanity of Fifty Shades while pulling up way short of the hardcore fetish elements found on many extreme internet tube sites.
Back in the gym the options posed for both Nadia and Emma are carefully defined. As the camera moves in on Emma’s treadmill next to Nadia’s elliptical, it floats past a rack of dumbbells that illustrate the choices available to each woman.
The top row contains two smaller dumbbells, both round and equal in size, with a exercise baton nestled in the juncture between them. This is Emma’s next possibility. Both weights are side by side and sexually open with the option of welcoming in a third person. In the same row, but to the far right, are two larger six-sided dumbbells of equal size representing Nadia’s view of her marriage, closed off and solid, or so she hopes.
Should either woman choose an unequal relationship, open or closed, in which her stature is diminished , the options are on the bottom row. Two round dumbbells and two six-sided ones, with the larger dominant one snuggled next to the smaller. Curiously, off to the right of the closed dumbbells is a single and smaller six-sided one, perhaps it is Ray’s suggestion that so infuriated Nadia and her no nonsense answer.
Where will all this drama leave Emma?