Thursday, February 23, 2012

You are very beautiful, very talented. But we are going to make you more beautiful, even more talented.

Hello I am the movie encyclopedia and if no one else will see it, I will.

Sometimes I wonder why I choose to watch the films I do. Granted I could just read my catchphrase and that'd be a good enough answer but sometimes even that doesn't seem to be a good enough explanation. Sleeping Beauty is one of those movies that raises that question. It's not a bad movie by any means, in fact I think it's Emily Browning's best role to date, but why in the blue Hell would I want to watch a movie about old men fondling an unconscious ginger? Then again I doubt that short little synopsis would really appeal to many people unless you are one of those said old men. Sleeping Beauty is a weirdly fascinating and disturbing film about apathy, silence and human nature. Though I continued to sit further and further back as the film kept going (I think at one point I might have been behind the couch) I could never take my eyes off the film. The film is like watching a train crash during a Pink Floyd light show. I know I shouldn't be interested but I am.

Anyway I probably should move on and talk about the plot. Otherwise I'll continue to make increasingly worse comparisons until I've offended at least three people.
The film follows Lucy (Emily Browning), a college student/waitress/prostitute/science experiment trying to make ends meat. She's quiet, mostly keeps to herself and her only friend is a man named Birdman who is infatuated with her. She of course doesn't feel the same way (she rarely ever shows any emotion) but she feels an obligation to visit and take care of him since he's the only one who will treat her like a normal person. She takes a job offer in the newspaper (like she needs more jobs) to be a server for old rich guys. The catch is she'd be in lingerie and would more than likely be humiliated. But she doesn't care. She doesn't care about anything. Eventually she gets a promotion and becomes a "sleeping beauty," which is a woman who is drugged and put to sleep for 6-8 hours. During that time a male (or female but only men are ever shown) companion will come in and do whatever he wants to her, as long as there is no sex.

Sounds like a wonderfully charming film doesn't it? Yeah, didn't think so. But to Julia Leigh's credit she does craft an interesting story and does a lot without saying a lot. The theme of the film, apathy and silence, is apparent from the opening minutes and it never tries to be anything more than that. If you aren't hooked by the fifteen minute mark, you probably never will be. But silence can be deafeningly engrossing to some and this film has it in spades. The plot does jump around a lot and leaves a lot of ambiguity/plot holes but overall it's unique and I appreciate unique.
Browning is brilliant as Lucy. She's an actress who can do subtle well and this role is basically the closest to pure subtlety we'll be likely to see for a number of years. She's almost non-existent but she commands the screen every time she's on it. That's hard, especially when there is almost nothing going on during the movie, action or score wise. She has to make you feel and react to everything without the film directing you to do so. That's tough. And she deserves credit where credit is due. Otherwise the acting is unremarkable. It's not bad but it's just there. Not bad, not good.

Sleeping Beauty is a film that nobody will probably want to see and even if they do they won't want to finish it. Even if they do they'll probably hate it. That's fine and I totally understand. But for me Sleeping Beauty is a compelling, original film led by a wonderful performance by Browning. But that's just me.

MY VERDICT: SEE IT (3 out of 5)

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