Back in March, we all thought Tiger King was the craziest/unlikeliest pandemic viewing hit. But then, after we’d all been housebound for about two months, depriving many of you of all physical contact, 365 Days happened.
To be clear, reviews of 365 Days were rendered pointless within 24 hours of it dropping on Netflix. The answer to the question “Is this a good movie?” is apparently “Who fucking cares, skip to the yacht scene”.
To simply write 365 Days off as offensive and misogynistic feels lazy. It is absolutely both those things, and probably one of the most jarringly awful films I’ve ever seen in my life, but I was determined to push beyond my initial reaction of stunned horror and find some small aspect of it that might be interesting to talk about. Instagram came through for me like never before. What was supposed to be a quick perusal of the response to the film on social media for the sake of context turned into a much longer tumble down a fandom rabbit hole that has turned out to the most intriguing and harrowing part of this pandemic for me.
365 Days has a… robust online following, predominantly centered around lead actor Michele Morrone. Sure, there are critical reviews and analyses of the film’s messaging elsewhere on the Internet if you give a shit about that kind of thing, but on Instagram it’s all fan accounts with names ranging from adorable (“dolcemorrone”) to slightly disturbing (“daddymorrone”), montages of Massimo violently flinging Laura around like a rag doll set to 6ix9ine’s Punani, and about ten million gifs of the film’s most offensive moments with captions like, “FUEGO!!” followed by three lines of heart-eyes emojis. The fan base is overwhelmingly comprised of very, very young girls. Insert horrified scream emoji here.
It isn’t just about this hot new actor driving girls loopy with his shirtless Insta stories, many of these people seemed to be embracing the character, who is an unmitigated creep. I was now deeply horrified but also deeply curious. I know we’ve had this conversation about romanticizing problematic male romantic leads after Twilight, then the 50 Shades trilogy. Ultimately, everyone is allowed to like whatever the hell they like, especially in this current time of gestures vaguely at everything, but for whatever reason, the onslaught of “BRB going to Sicily to get kidnapped!” Tik Toks made by teenaged girls broke my brain.
So I went back and watched 365 fucking Days again - this time with my partner, because I thought I might as well get a man’s perspective, but he insisted on indulging in an edible beforehand, and apparently if you get high and convince yourself 365 Days is supposed to be a comedy, it is “Fucking great,” and now he just walks around the apartment randomly growling “Are you lost, baby gurl?” at me, which is fine. Absolutely fine. Anyway.
Upon further reflection, I feel like as much as I cannot, in good conscience, recommend that any of you watch 365 Days if you haven’t already done so, it could have been a perfectly decent erotic thriller. The raw material is there, and with a less haphazard script and about 70 percent more sweaty boffing, you’d be seeing at least a couple more stars at the bottom of this page.
Erotic thrillers are always hotly debated, but I’m a fan when they’re done right. Equal parts romance, danger/suspense, and banging (ok fine, ideally 75% banging and 25% that other crap), they tend to be messy, problematic, and offensive, but that’s the whole point. The erotic thriller breaches socially acceptable norms surrounding sex, consent, and romance, and tests the limits of what is acceptable fantasy, particularly for women, considering how relentlessly society and culture scrutinize, police, and punish female desire.
The fantasies that play out in erotic thrillers range from embarrassing to unspeakable, catering to a broad range of proclivities. Films featuring kidnapping fantasies are nothing new – Stockholm syndrome apparently being a huge turn on for some of us. The interesting thing is that in order for the erotic thriller to delve into fantasy and taboo, the narrative is usually structured around a set of ‘ground rules’, established as a baseline set of limits the characters then proceed to test and the breach, building slowly (or not so slowly, whatever floats your boat) towards the merciless clam-jamming.
When done right, the erotic thriller can be challenging, but also sexy and enjoyable. The whole point is to indulge in fantasy versions of scenarios that would never, ever be acceptable or appealing in real life. The leading men in these films are often steeped in old-school bullshit representations of masculinity, conflating love with obsession, intent on possessing and controlling the women they desire. In real life, such men are to be avoided at all costs. In an erotic thriller, if done right, your response to these terrible yet somehow irresistible men is equal parts revulsion but also wanting him to pin you against a wall and roger you so hard the fillings pop out of your teeth.
A good erotic thriller should also set up a narrative of psycho-sexual gamesmanship between a couple that keeps things interesting in between the sheet shaking scenes, with each character pushing a separate, conflicting agenda, messing with each other’s minds and bodies to the point where the initial power dynamic is upended, and we start to question who is actually submitting to whom.
365 Days misses the mark on every single element mentioned above. As far as erotic thrillers go, it is neither thrilling nor particularly erotic. It’s basically 50 Shades of Grey meets The Room. The plot makes no damn sense at all. And forget about any narrative ‘ground rules’ – I mean, Massimo sets them, but then forgets them five seconds later. “I will not touch you without your permission,” he assures Laura with one hand wrapped around her throat and the other squeezing her breast. “I will not tie you up,” he promises her in one scene. Two minutes later we see her bound to her seat on his private jet, helpless to stop him from jamming his hand down her pants.
If not for these sloppy, silly inconsistencies, the Massimo-Laura relationship could have been fleshed out so much better. The seeds of an intriguing story are in there, like the underlying trauma that leads Massimo to his unorthodox and highly inadvisable pick up methods in the first place. Laura quickly proves herself more than a match for Massimo’s bullying, often engaging in head games of her own, and could have easily been given more narrative runway to assert her own kind of dominance leading up to the eventual lowering of the Walls of Jericho, so to speak. Instead, there is no slow burn, no drawing us in as we struggle to reconcile our basic belief in things like sexual agency and consent with a melting desire to be on that yacht with that dumb guy, and not a single plot development is truly earned.
But even a bad erotic thriller can be redeemed if there is enough four-legged foxtrotting that the rest of its shortcomings can be overlooked. Ultimately, we watch films like this mainly for the bonestorming. To that end, it doesn’t have to be good, just dirty as hell. It didn’t have to matter that 365 Days has more plot holes and inconsistencies than there were snakes on Samuel L. Jackson’s plane, or that the dialogue and performances are more stilted and wooden than a North Korean pep rally. None of it would matter if only there was enough hide-the-bishop to keep us entertained. But it doesn’t even give us that.
Yes, there are eventually a couple of short sex scenes that are admittedly pretty hot, largely because they are (finally) mutually consensual, but it ultimately just isn’t enough to make it worth the hour and 56 minutes of your life that would be better spent watching literally anything else. By now, I have no doubt all the good stuff can probably be found in a two-minute compilation on the porn site of your choice. If, however, 365 Days is your cup of tea, you’ll be happy to know a sequel is officially on its way, promising even more pants-off dance-offs than the first installment.
Personally, I would find it incredibly sexy if a sequel involved Massimo being abducted, strapped down, and forced to watch a slide presentation on respecting boundaries (“Massimo has 365 days to learn about informed consent”), but I won’t hold my breath. Unless he’d be into that. Hmm.