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Marshall Fine Headshot

Movie review: Sleeping Beauty

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Perhaps I'm not qualified to write about Sleeping Beauty, the debut film from Australian director Julia Leigh.

I am, after all, a middle-aged man. And this meandering movie, which manages to make nudity monotonous and presents sex as a distasteful commercial venture, seems to be about a kind of female empowerment - or perhaps disempowerment - with which I don't seem to connect.

If you look on Rotten Tomatoes, you'll find a critic referring to this as "a bold feminist think-piece" - which made me wonder: Hmmm, how bold and how thoughtful do you have to be to see the exploitation of women as a bad thing? Apparently referring to the film's decidedly opaque quality, someone else says, "There's an allegorical quality here." That's the mark of someone who b.s.'d their way through freshman English.

Still, I've always been of the opinion that a film should speak to the entire audience, rather than a single niche group. It may not say the same thing to all segments of the viewership but it still should communicate in some way.

But Leigh's Sleeping Beauty wanders aimlessly into Stanley Kubrick territory - specifically, the land of Eyes Wide Shut, with a large dash of Lolita." Leigh creates a feckless female protagonist, Lucy (Emily Browning), and lets her amble through her own life with no apparent destination, frequently with her clothes off. Her life, as the saying goes, is one damn thing after another. Or one boring thing after another.

She works in an office, where her blasé attitude has her on the boss' shit list. She apparently gets paid as a subject of medical experimentation - specifically to swallow a feeding tube in a gag-inducing pair of sequences. She regularly visits a friend who, apparently, is a drug addict, to enact some ritual of domesticity. The only thing she seems to really get involved in is a job as a waitress - and only at the end of the night, when she doggedly scrubs down tables with a concentration that seems to be as much about OCD as a dedication to doing a good job.

She's behind in her rent, which makes her the object of anger from one of her roommates. So she takes a job as part of the world's kinkiest catering crew.

This review continues on my website.