8 February 2012 | grouchyeditor
Fantasy Time for Dirty Old Men
I like my movies odd, and I like my movies sexy. In general, when I review an odd, sexy movie, I want to be kind because I don't want filmmakers to stop making them. But there is a limit – and freshman director Julia Leigh's "Sleeping Beauty" is long on odd and short on sexy.
"Sleeping Beauty" is about a young woman named Lucy (Emily Browning) who is psychologically damaged. In fact, everyone Lucy encounters – an old boyfriend, co-workers at a temp job, the landlords with whom she lives – is damaged in one way or another: hostile, bitter, emotionally impenetrable. So Lucy, who is nothing if not experimental, takes a new job as a living blow-up doll for rich old men to play with (but never to "penetrate," as we are constantly reminded by the madam of the high-end brothel for which Lucy works).
Leigh's movie is basically a 100-minute peep show in which we observe Lucy and her peculiar acquaintances. It's an Australian production with French art-film pretensions; when someone pours a glass of tea or wipes down a tabletop, Leigh's camera lingers portentously. There is much unspoken angst in the film – but not to worry, because all of this somber silence will soon be broken by some kinky sex.
If I didn't know better (actually, I guess I don't), I'd wager that "Sleeping Beauty" was produced by a committee of dirty old men, several of whom get to appear in scenes with the fetching, young Browning. How else to explain numerous scenes in which these geezers, their twigs-and-berries on full display, spoon with the naked and unconscious girl, or mount her sleeping (drugged) body, or toss her recklessly onto the floor?
"Sleeping Beauty" is promoted as an "erotic drama," but while watching it I found myself empathizing with one of Lucy's customers, who complains: "The only way I can get a hard-on these days is if I swallow a truckload of Viagra."