By Mia Robinson
Written and directed by Julia Leigh (a renowned Australian novelist) Sleeping Beauty is her first feature film attempt. A technically flawless film, offering beautiful cinematography by Geoffrey Simpson – the content of the film, however, leaves much to be desired.
Lucy (Emily Browning) is a young university student struggling to make the rent. Between jobs as a waitress, working in an office, as a laboratory subject and with the occasional “party trick” on the side, she seems to scrape through. Deciding to make better use of her “talent”, her “beauty” leads her into the hands of Clara (Rachael Blake), and she begins working as a lingerie waitress at private dinner parties. This in turn leads to more “sinister” work, where she takes on the role, literally, of a “sleeping beauty”. During these drug induced-sleeping sessions, she doesn’t know what happens other than that men pay to sleep with her whilst she is unconscious. Curiosity gets the better of her and she endeavours to find out what happens whilst she is asleep.
We delve into this life of Lucy, a stoic, seemingly detached girl, however, we don’t find out much about her, nor about any of the other characters. It seems she has a complicated relationship with her only friend Birdmann (Ewen Leslie), of which not much is revealed either.
This is a relatively slow, tiresome film, marketed as “sensuous” and even aspiring to scenes of eroticism. Sure, it has nudity, however, scenes that threaten to be “sensuous” and “erotic” just pull short, instead presenting as a bit stifled and pretentious. Any potential eroticism (something that often exists in the withheld, something that can be suggested but that can also left to the viewer’s imagination), is largely dispelled with the revelation and full exposure of the male clients’ fantasies. Most of the characters present as sad, desperate and lonely, an exploration of which may have produced for a more interesting story. Aside from the masterful cinematography, I left the theatre feeling cheated.
Sleeping Beauty is out through Paramount Pictures. It opens at cinemas June 23rd.