Sleeping Beauty (2011) Review
Sleeping Beauty (2011)
Directed by Julia Leigh. Starring Emily Browning, Rachael Blake and Ewen Leslie
In Sleeping Beauty, a university student, Lucy (Emily Browning), leads a difficult life and is forced to take on many jobs to get by. Responding to an advertisement by Clara (Rachael Blake), Lucy is drawn into a bizarre world of eroticism.
If Emily Browning’s career enjoys the success that her obvious acting ability so richly deserves, I somehow doubt that twenty years from now she will be reminiscing fondly with the chat-show host of the day about her time producing this particular film. ‘Sleeping Beauty‘ is an odd little film with an incoherent narrative that flails wildly like a squirrel falling from a tree. Yet somehow the movie is mildly entertaining, though stops short of ever being compelling viewing.
A character study without any real characterisation, ‘Sleeping Beauty‘ is like watching the mental degradation of an apparently troubled young woman who finds herself in a mixture of bizarre situations with various people. Among the shaky narrative and lack of storytelling prowess, there is a sense that there’s more to this picture than first meets the eye but too much is left uncomfortably unexplained and consequently the experience is never fulfilling.
Despite the promotion of the film and the level of nudity, this isn’t a sexy movie; instead, it is rather morbid. There’s an inherent ugliness as attractive young women are found to be used as pawns in the world’s most peculiar brothel, selling sex without the sex. As with many aspects of the film, there is a sense that the repeated contrast between youthful beauty and withered age is presented with a point in mind. None, however, immediately leaps out other than possible misandric undertones.
Yet despite all of this, there is something to like about this movie, no matter how hard it is to pinpoint. The film is like a curious dream that lingers in mind long after awakening. The haphazard narrative is reminiscent of those thoughts that materialise in our sleeping state, full of holes, inconsistencies and questions that go unanswered. The cinematography is effective, a pervading grim wash descends upon the film fitting nicely with the overall morbidity and the curiosity evoked by the stunted narrative drives the viewer to seek those answers.
But at the end, the film is what it is; a strange picture that is not particularly entertaining and reeks of pretentiousness. Indeed there exist some interesting ideas, but the end product is so disconcertingly vague that one is left wondering whether the film even had a purpose. Strong performances, particularly from the two female leads Browning and Blake, carry this movie despite the skipping narrative and slow pacing but in the end, it is like watching a film about nothing; a peculiar nothing, but nothing nonetheless.