SLEEPING BEAUTY (2011)
Now and then, you come across a movie that's pure atmosphere. Maybe the plot is alright, maybe the characters are barely there, but it's the tone of the movie that really comes through. Always very stylized, very artsy, with a high chance of a masquerade ball thrown in there somewhere. Sleeping Beauty walks a tightrope between drama and art film, leaving me straddling my own opinions about it. The main premise runs something like this: Lucy (Emily Browning), a young woman who entertains life with a mechanical precision, decides to take on an unorthodox job for the money. Her job description is this: she takes some sleeping tea, falls asleep naked, and lets men "enjoy her company" for the night. The next morning, she wakes up without any recollection of what's happened. The most interesting part of the job is that it comes with a stipulation: the men who purchase her for the night can't penetrate her. Which means she gets a cast of extremely interesting characters--an elderly man who just wants to hold someone, a sadomasochist who needs to bark at something pretty, and so on.
To be honest, I'm still having a hard time wrapping my head around exactly how I feel about the movie. From what I'd heard about it, I was preparing myself for some sick sexual abuse. What I got in return was something more disturbing--a main character completely numb to her body. I've seen Shame. I can handle that whole "ugly sex" theme. Violation. Degradation. But the strangest part was how open Lucy was to the concept. She didn't seem to have any real qualms about giving her body up for free. Instead, she seemed to use her body as currency on a regular basis and overall had succumbed to her situation. Lucy was less of a main character and more of a prop, without any real intent or motivation of her own. I'd like to give the script (and Emily Browning) the benefit of the doubt and say this was intentional on the movie's part. Which made it a fine art film with striking social commentary, but at what cost? The sacrifice of a potentially engaging and sympathetic main character. All in all, I'm glad I watched this one, but you'd have a hard time getting a straight-answer from me about it. I will, however, say this: the clients who purchase her for the night? The most fearless actors you've ever seen in a long time. Check this one out solely for the old man. Homeboy's got talent.