by Rich Moreland, September 2017
Jacky St. James has ventured into a another film in her Emma Marx series.
Here is my review/analysis of The Submission of Emma Marx: Evolved, a New Sensations release under its Erotic Stories collection.
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The ancient Greeks believed the trilogy, a tale told in three parts, represented completeness. Academics interpret the trilogy’s interconnected dramas as a story arc which moves the main character through a change of some sort.
Jacky St. James refines this approach with her brilliantly crafted original Emma Marx series which follows Emma’s sexual and emotional development. In the end, she must overcome the tragic loss of her lover.
So what to make of The Submission of Emma Marx: Evolved, essentially a fourth installment that broadens the narrative and, as it stands now, presents a myriad of possibilities going forward?
Simply put, Jacky is continuing Emma’s sexual growth, or what is best described as her maturity. The process is not dissimilar to the basic human experience developmental psychologists divide into stages, in this case, thirds: young, middle age, and old age. Emma’s progress, emotionally and sexually, has moved out of its adolescence and young adulthood into the earliest beginnings of a sexual middle age.
Is this fourth film the beginning of another trilogy? Possibly. Consider this: at first glance, Evolved is not better or worse than the original series; it is just different, a fresh story that in effect carries on the old story with all the ingredients to initiate a new trilogy of its own.
We already see the wheels beginning to turn as Emma moves her own desires away from submission into experiencing BDSM from the other side of the spectrum. Assuming the dominant role, Emma reaches out as teacher, mentor, and guru to a submissive whose understanding of the fetish is in its infancy, just as Mr. Frederick did for her.
The youthful BDSM neophyte Mariah is the beneficiary now and the future is filled with adventure.
But Jacky leaves us with a difficult question. Does a submissive pass through that state and wish to become a dominant? Is that a natural progression, or does a submissive play an elaborate game of becoming a “switch?”
This we do know. The reason Evolved is not an extension of the original series is the absence of Mr. Frederick materially, though he remains with Emma spiritually. Sadly, the on-screen dynamics created by Penny Pax as Emma and Richie Calhoun as Mr. Frederick cannot find a space in this film. However, Jacky astutely maintains their connection with an occasional flashback.
She also pursues their relationship in a unique way that shapes the story: Richie, as William Frederick, narrates the film from the grave, we assume.
Despite the missing Emma/William physical component to hold the story together, there are other chemistries that quickly fill the void.
First, Riley Reid as Nadia and Van Wylde as her husband Ray once again open the film’s sex scenes with a romp of their own. If their pairing continues into the future, Riley/Van scenes will become the stuff of porn legend. Going back to each of the previous films: the original, Boundaries, and Exposed, we see them sexually evolve as they deal with the demands of their marriage and the changes that brings.
Second, there’s the acting chemistry between Riley and Penny that is a mainstay in the trilogy. Their collaboration continues in this film and, it can be noted with assurance, Riley is a deft handler of dialogue and emotional expression. She has pace in her lines and in-character attitudes that move the narrative forward. Nadia retains her snarkiness, but also demonstrates a compassion that is underdeveloped in the first three films primarily due to her superficial interpretation of her suburban way of life.
Finally, there is the chemistry between Emma and Mariah (Violet Starr). Though not as pronounced as Nadia/Emma, it is still evident and predictably will grow should they be paired in another Emma film.
As Domme and sub, they are on the doorstep of becoming lovers, but for fans who want to relish that girl/girl action they’ll have to wait for another Emma installment. Always on her screenwriting toes, Jacky has cleverly laid the groundwork for that possibility.
Working our way backwards through the sex scenes, the last one is beyond noteworthy. Penny is paired in a threesome with adult male superstars, Mickey Blue and John Strong.
The action includes anal, a DP, and light bondage. The adorable redhead is a solid veteran and can pull off any BDSM scene, no matter its intensity. What is more important to the story, however, is the reason for the sex. It sets the stage for Emma’s further development as a dominatrix because Evolved pronounces this scene as the final episode of her life as a submissive.
The opening sex scene featuring Nadia and Ray alluded to above, continues the tradition of the rocking hardcore action Riley Reid has cultivated to trademark her brand. Of note is how different their sex scenes are in the series. In the first film, the sex is premarital. In the second and third we see them married with fantasy/fetish play, and now they’re separated and into “hate sex,” as Nadia calls it.
Hilariously, she explains to Emma that it’s the best she’s ever had with more orgasms than ever before.
Director of Photography Eddie Powell and his compadre Paul Woodcrest capture gonzo elements within feature film sex that offers the best of both porn sub-genres. With a series of “fuck mes” and “oh my gods,” Riley calls on her all-sex roots to steam up the stage. Lots of liquid everywhere (we’re talking spit here) and facial close-ups (an Eddie Powell tradition) mark the dynamics of the every scene.
In fact, all the sex scenes have an important gonzo element that is not always considered appealing to porn viewers of the fairer sex. After the pop shot, each performer runs her fingers through the cum deposited on her body and licks it off with her lips.
This is a departure from the earlier Emma films, but reinforces Jacky St. James’ personal love of gonzo.
Incidentally, other than being finger-licking good, the pop shots are tame compared to what other filmmakers are doing. Facials are avoided to keep the female-friendly and feminist component of Evolved in tact.
Newcomer Violet Starr presents her all-sex talents with Damon Dice and Jay Smooth in two scenes that show why she was cast as Mariah. However, looking beyond her physical talents, the viewer should pay close attention to Violet’s acting. She reveals that once again Jacky St. James can uncover the best performers for her films.
Mariah is aloof with Emma early on before becoming angry later when she feels abandoned. Throw in some fawning that Emma sorts through easily and Violet’s performance is good stuff for anyone who appreciates a well-paced and entertaining story.
Truth be told, this twenty-year-old’s acting is fresh and perky and, as the narrator tells us in describing Mariah, “unabashed and unapologetic.”
As usual, a Jacky St. James film is flavored with references and motifs that enliven the drama. Take, for example, the scene with Emma washing Mariah’s back as she sits in the tub. Mariah has just experienced her first real BDSM sex after an education in the psychological perspective of bondage.
The episode is an emotional replay of the bath tub scenes in the original trilogy where the submissive Emma is bathed and caressed by her dominant, Mr. Frederick.
An important motif in Evolved is Emma’s trunk. It contains her bondage paraphernalia and toys. In the opening scene, it is toted up the steps when she moves in with Nadia and down again at story’s end as she moves out. That’s symbolic because Emma’s time as a sub has reached its height and she passing that baton off to Mariah. Emma has metaphorically reestablished her submission before putting it away as she occupies, then leaves, Nadia’s house.
When Mariah rummages through the gear, Emma takes the opportunity to mention that there is a strong psychological component to BDSM.
“It’s not about the pain,” she says, “It’s about exercise and control and anticipation.”
Up until that moment, Mariah’s fetish sex is plastic handcuffs and some spanking that lights up the physical senses as illustrated in her first sex scene with a guy (Damon Dice) she’s picked up. She directs him to please her in her favorite role as a submissive. There is a feminist component on display here, of course, but the BDSM message is underdeveloped, as Emma will reveal to Mariah.
When Emma takes control of Mariah’s BDSM training, new feminist avenues are opened up and we see Jacky’s version of feminism upfront and personal. The feminist touch in porn is as cerebral as it is physical.
Eddie Powell and Paul Woodcrest contribute to this female-centric motif by focusing on whole body shots during the sex so as to not minimize the men. Also, they celebrate female satisfaction with facial close-ups of the women. What’s more, eye contact is vital in this film, recalling the emotionally gripping scene when Emma meets her new Dom in the last installment of the original trilogy.
As for symbolism, notice the St. Andrew’s Cross print on the wall of Mariah’s bedroom. That traditional BDSM symbol is revisited at the end of the film where eye contact once again solidifies relationships.
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In Part Two of this commentary, we’ll briefly consider Jacky St. James’ message presented in Evolved.