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Featured DVD Review: Sleeping Beauty

May 5th, 2012

Sleeping Beauty - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Video on Demand

Before Sleeping Beauty opened here, there was quite a lot of buzz, at least when compared to most limited releases. However, critics were evenly split on the film, literally, and it currently holds a Tomatometer Score of exactly 50% positive. It struggled during its opening weekend and quickly exited theaters after that. It came out on on the home market a little while ago and the screener finally arrived. On what side of this close debate will I land on?

The Movie

When we first meet Lucy, she's a college student struggling to make enough money to pay tuition, rent, food, etc. She has a couple regular jobs. (She's a waitress / busboy and an office drone / gofer.) Plus a couple irregular jobs. (She's a test subject in a medical lab and goes to fancy bars looking for... dates. Or maybe I'm reading too much into that.) Even so, she's still having trouble paying the rent, and as a result, one of her roommates really hates her. Her relationship with her mother is even worse. The lone bright spot in her life is her friendship with Birdman, which is a little strange, but the pair seem to actually care about each other.

Looking for more money, Lucy answers an ad in the student paper and meets up with Clara. The job is unusual. Lucy is to dress in lingerie and be part of service staff at private functions. As Clara says, there is room for promotion. After a few nights of this, Lucy gets that promotion of sorts. Her next job involves her being drugged and asleep in a bed while men will be allowed to sleep beside her and do whatever they want, as long as it doesn't involve penetration. She won't remember what happens to her, but it isn't long before that part of the job becomes a problem.

This is the debut for writer / director Julia Leigh, who used a number of sources as inspiration for her screenplay, including The House of the Sleeping Beauties by Yasunari Kawabata, which was previous adapted as House of the Sleeping Beauties, which I previously reviewed. I found that movie incredibly dull, mainly because I didn't care about the lead character in the slightest, but also because so much of the film was boring monologues. I hoped that by changing the lead character from one of the clients to one of the "Sleeping Beauties" the film would have a more compelling main character. I was right, but not by enough.

We don't learn enough about Lucy to care about the decisions she makes, so as a central character, she just can't carry the film. Her motives remain a mystery. In fact, whether or not she has motives or she's just floating through life is up for debate. (I lean towards the latter.) Emily Browning gives us no insight into her character, but to be fair to her, the script doesn't provide any answers, as I suspect she was directed to be emotionless and so very passive. We needed to learn a lot more about her before she agreed to become a "Sleeping Beauty". When that happened and we have a series of scenes with her clients, what little interest I had in the movie evaporated.

The Extras

There are no extras on the DVD, not unless you count the trailer. Unless the movie is quite old and there's some historical value with the trailer (i.e., you can say, "They don't make trailers like that anymore.") then the trailer isn't a real extra.

The Verdict

Sleeping Beauty is better than House of the Sleeping Beauties, but that's damning it with faint praise. The film moves too slowly and the lead character never connects on an emotional level. I do applaud Emily Browning for taking on such a daring role, but hopefully her next films will give her more compelling roles. If you are still interested in seeing the film, since there are no extras on the DVD and the replay value is limited, renting it with Video on Demand is the best bet.

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Filed under: Video Review, Sleeping Beauty