Sleeping Beauty (2011)


A disenfranchised twenty-something student dozing through her life.


Don’t expect a handsome prince. Men fiddle with a drugged young sex worker while she sleeps in Australian writer/director Julia Leigh’s haunting debut feature. Disney, this isn’t. a lyrical fable of youth and ageing, Sleeping Beauty centres on Lucy (Sucker Punch’s Emily Browning, in what could be a career-making performance), a disenfranchised twenty-something student dozing through her life.

Listless Lucy is apparently so disconnected from her body she makes extra cash inserting tubes down her throat for medical research. It’s only a step or two from the sexy silver-service job she takes at an elite gentlemen’s club to her role as professional snoozer. Browning is unapologetically naked for large portions of the film, yet her detachment shocks more than the nudity itself.

This Beauty doesn’t titillate. Nor, though, is it a feminist tirade against the abuses of the sex trade. Instead, the men who come to Lucy – grieving, angry-impotent and age-weakened – are treated with sympathy and understanding. Directed with eye-catching assurance for a first-timer, this is a conspicuously quiet, still film, with scant dialogue and functional, concise exchanges.

Leigh’s technique both intoxicates and alienates – in fact, from first till last, Sleeping Beauty feels so elliptical and strange that it’s hard to process fully on a first viewing. The hushed, reflective ending only adds to the uncertainty – yet it lingers like a vivid dream. If there’s a sticking point, it’s that the film takes itself a mite too seriously. And like those medical tubes, some plot developments take some swallowing.

In one scene, Lucy spontaneously proposes to an ex-boyfriend. In another, she rents an apartment in a glass high-rise without even looking around. And when she’s asked by a fellow sex worker to paint her lips the exact same colour as her labia, it’s hard not to raise an eyebrow. Still, this is a brave, thoughtful, highly accomplished debut that rewards as much as it challenges.

Film Details

User Reviews

    • Kat82

      Oct 17th 2011, 22:16


      I saw this film over the weekend and have to say I found it very disappointing. I was initially intrigued by the trailer and the premise of the story and thought it might present an interesting character study/ look into the mindset of the kind of person who would actually volunteer to be put in such a vulnerable situation and what effect it might have on them after going through the 'Sleeping Beauty' experience. Instead I saw a film that was dull and incredibly slow with no engaging characters. I will say that some of the scenes where beautifully shot and presented but the story and the characters on a whole lacked any depth or substance. The characterization of the films protagonist was so paper thin the director may as well have just stuck a still of her CV on the screen for two minutes as it would have achieved the same goal in half the time : Name: Lucy/Sara Occupation: Lab rat/Waitress/Photocopy girl/Escort/ Sleeping Beauty. Financial status:Surprisingly skint despite having several jobs and money to burn(which she literally does in one scene of the film regardless of her financial woes) You'll wonder where all my money goes as I don't really spend money on clothes or detergent as I wear the same grimy outfit for the entire film. Address: I'm kind of between addresses as my house mates have kicked me out for not paying rent(despite the big pay off from my new job) and I've opted to move to a flashy pad which I can't possibly afford as I'm not on a guaranteed income(Clara my Pimp said so!). There you have it the character and most of the storyline in a fraction of the time! The few encounters that Lucy/Sara does have with personal acquaintances are very brief and not particularly enlightening about her character or her past, everything seems to be left deliberately ambiguous, which is okay in small doses but when pretty much the whole film is full of plot holes and no really story apart from seeing the repetitive scenes of Lucy/Sara doing her various jobs and various(uncalled for) shots of her naked it just becomes grating. Granted the scenes of her with her few clients are uncomfortable to watch so I suppose the director did manage to evoke something other than a mix of boredom and mild irritation out of me. Another scene where one of her clients gives a little story/speech before crawling into bed with Lucy felt like the director was trying to shoe horn in to some philosophical insight into the story but felt clunky and was quite cringe worthy to watch. When the lights came up at the end and I looked around to my fellow audience members I realised I was not alone in thinking WTF was that all about.

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