'Sleeping Beauty' Review: A Trashy, Empty, Bizarre Sex Worker Story

The complete opposite of its classic fairy tale source, IFC’s “Sleeping Beauty” is nothing about love and romance. In fact, it doesn’t even compare in the slightest. How any actress would want to take part in this film is beyond me, as it celebrates complete female submission as desirable and ideal to a man.

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Ugh, this movie disgusted me. Not only was the lead (Emily Browning) naked for 90 percent of the film, other actresses walked around in gross lingerie for a good bit and contributed nothing but revolting images to the picture.

I’m not saying nudity can’t be used in film, but when its overkill like this, it begs the the question: what is the director trying to do here–desperately trying to be “artistic” or create a porn show that you can buy for $9.99 on VOD?

Lucy (“Suckerpunch” star Browning) finds herself working several menial jobs to pay for her university bills and rent. She comes across a peculiar job in the newspaper that provokes her interest. The job is a lingerie server, so at the interview Lucy is instructed to take off her clothes by Clara (Rachael Blake), who then studies her body with her strange partner in crime Thomas (Eden Falk). If the scene doesn’t already sound creepy enough, Thomas begins pinching parts of her body like a complete womanizer. Once Lucy is hired, Clara decides they will call her ‘Sara’, since discretion is of the utmost importance.

Clara is the facilitator for these events, where her clients gather at dinner, while women are dressed in trashy lingerie, serving food, wine and brandy. The film’s title refers to the most lucrative of these events: Lucy is fully sedated for one night, while the client can do whatever he likes with her, excluding penetration and leaving marks.

Lucy is getting paid mucho bucks for the night, but obviously the girl doesn’t have any self-respect or know how to earn a living. Why? Well, that’s the thing, we’re never quite sure why. Lucy is the film’s focus, yet Browning’s performance is completely one-note and director/writer Julia Leigh doesn’t give her much at all to work with, since she’s knocked out a good portion of the film.

The fact that Lucy will sleep with a random stranger at the flip of a coin, flirts with women, and is in love with an alcoholic is plenty enough to make one ask, “how did this poor girl get this way?” What is provoking her to sleep with strange men in her “real life” as Lucy and in her “courtesan life” as Sara? There is no explanation for any of the events in the film, and that is why it is terrible.

There is a way of constructing a film like this one, and it comes in the form of Lars von Trier’s “Melancholia.” If Leigh wanted Lucy to come across as a depressed young soul instead of a sad sack of potatoes, she could have played it out much differently. And I will add that the supporting cast did nothing to help Browning in the movie. Every performance was devoid of emotion and dull.

Even though Browning did have a few impressive moments on screen, one of which has her screaming in emotional pain, I hope she doesn’t think she will get an acting nomination for this film just because she went nude. My suggestion for her would be to never work with Ms. Leigh again.

“Sleeping Beauty” couldn’t be further from the truth, as Julia Leigh’s film is a complete nightmare.

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