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Better than I'd been led to believe.
skydancers6 November 2011
OK, after reading review after review that deliberately refused to engage with the content that was clearly on the screen, I decided to respond to this one:

"However the viewer is distracted by wondering how she manages to fit in her tertiary maths course, a day time job collating documents that you'd expect the machine in the same room to do, second job at the café, visiting a dried out case who has muesli and gin for breakfast, getting picked up in bars and hiring on as a fetish object."

The muesli and gin (vodka?) episode comes when she visits a friend who is an addict/alcoholic, and she obviously is displaying that the only way to get some food into him is to mix it with alcohol. (Also apparent that she's taking the p-ss.) The other scenes are to set up the idea that none of the things she is engaged with in her life --work, school, family --really matter much to her, and that she's pretty much direction less. Also that she needs to work hard to get by, which should be obvious enough. It establishes enough drudgery to explain why she might be attracted to the danger and risk-taking she embarks on.

"Lets not start in on why she burns the hundred dollar note in sustained shot, like the opening with white coat shoving a tube down her throat."

The first is to show her reaction to having some money --as someone who had to struggle for it for so long, she enjoys the sheer pleasure of acting out the idea of having "money to burn". The lab tests, meanwhile, are to show you how desperate she is to pick up some cash through odd jobs -- it also sets up the irony of her being "penetrated" in her straight job, while not being penetrated in her sleeping call girl one.

"As for the performers, our sympathy for the actors' humiliation overrides any criticism of their performances."

Browning did an excellent job, and certainly better than anyone had a right to expect after "Sucker Punch". I hear over and over about what a "blank" she was; I did not find that to be the case at all: nearly every scene plays out on her face and reactions, and I was constantly following her closely for clues as to where her character was coming from. And yes, there were plenty. As for the nudity, this emphasizes her character's vulnerability, especially when contrasted with her clients. The key moment here is when she finds, after starting her "sleeping beauty" job, that she's no longer comfortable sleeping naked at home, and puts on some undies. What her eyes don't remember from her sleeping sessions, it seems her body memory does.

Like the above review suggests, there are a lot of opinions out there about how opaque the film is supposed to be; that's not true at all. The film does leave some gaps for your imagination, and it tends to make you focus on detail and draw your own conclusions --everything isn't spelled out in neat little packets of dialog, as some seem to wish for. ("I'm prostituting myself because my daddy didn't love me when I was young and my mother's an alcoholic." -- I suppose that would be the American version.) This is hardly "Inland Empire", though, and the plot dots are certainly there to be connected for anyone who's looking. The pace is hypnotic, which some will call "slow", and the ending is deliberately vague, but I was surprised how much it left me thinking about the characters, what happened to them both before and after. Haunting.
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Brave - but too obscure
rogerdarlington27 October 2011
In over half a century of cinema-going, I've seen a (deliberately) wide range of movies, including some really strange and cryptic work, and I have to say that the Australian "Sleeping Beauty" falls firmly in the odd and opaque category. Coincidentally another film in the very unusual bracket is the similarly named "Sleeping Furiously" set in Wales. "Sleeping Beauty" is not quite as slow - although it is very measured indeed - but the obscure meaning of many scenes sets it apart. There is as much nudity as "Eyes Wide Shut" with which it bears (sorry for the pun) some comparison, but a much weaker storyline.

This is an adventurous selection for a first film from Julia Leigh who both directed and wrote this strange tale of a Sdyney student who is prepared to sell her body in a variety of circumstances in order to pay her bills. And it is a bold choice for Emily Browning who moves on from "Sucker Punch" to take the eponymous role, meaning that she is rarely off screen and has to appear totally nude. There is virtually no music and very little dialogue (especially from Browning) so there is an astonishing focus on her face - doll-like with high cheek bones and cupid lips - and her body - diminutive, pale and slight.

But this is far from being an erotic work; in fact, it is a depressing one. None of the characters elicits our sympathy or warmth and Browning's character Lucy seems to be sleep-walking and drugged when she is not actually sleeping and drugged.
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It's difficult to fault the film's artistry and its originality
Likes_Ninjas9021 June 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Lucy (Emily Browning) is a student working on a number of jobs. She's a waitress, she works in an office and she's involved with a science experiment at her university too. She's not co-operating with her housemates though and the rent is overdue. When she sees an ad in the paper she applies for it. She's driven to a manor house where she meets Clara (Rachael Blake). Clara describes the job, which involves Lucy being sedated in a bed and allowing men to watch her sleep. Lucy is assured that she will not be penetrated. Her first task with several other women is to serve a group of old men dinner at the manor house. After this she is put in a deep sleep and studied individually by three different men. Outside her job, one of Lucy's few relationships is with an old friend of hers called Birdmann (Ewen Leslie), a recovering alcoholic.

Sleeping Beauty, the directional debut of Julia Leigh, is a film strictly for those seeking a more challenging and ambiguous brand of cinema. Its minimalism and utter restraint works mostly for rather than against its purpose. The film is richly successful in creating a world that's entirely consuming and isolating for its protagonist. Leigh relies on desaturation, like white colour palettes, to visualise this alienation. The majority of the film is also elegantly photographed at a distance using a wide angle shot to represent the isolation as Lucy becomes an individual, overwhelmed by her surroundings. Save for a misplaced phone box, it was pleasing to see a familiar location, with numerous scenes being shot at the University of Sydney. Leigh has an equally skillful understanding of the power of silence too. Music is almost nonexistent and the dialogue is sparing so we rely entirely on our vision here; making the film compelling and tense for its entirety. And it's extremely leisurely paced too, holding scenes for a very long time, with particular still framing, from a near-invisible camera. These formal aspects work to produce a dream-like state of slow, concentrated and delicate movements. As each scene fades to black, like the shutting of an eyelid, it becomes increasingly apparent that Lucy is almost sleeping walking through her life, with no prince to wake her up.

Rather mistakenly, a lot will be made about the film's morally ambiguous view of sexuality. The film does not include any sex scenes. It is a strict rule of the organisation that there is no penetration. As suggested by the composition, the film is more fascinatingly occupied by voyeuristic tendencies but also the desire to awaken our deepest fantasies. This is visualised through a number of scenes at the manor house. The first is the most confronting, where topless women, covered in thin, revealing straps, cater for old men as they poor them drinks and serve them dinner. It's gratuitous but that's precisely the point because its one geezers bizarre fantasy to another. There are three additional encounters in the bedroom itself: one man who is lightly physically, moving his hands across Lucy's back; another who is intensely aggressive and the third is someone who simply mishandles her. The contrast to this is Lucy who as the sleeping beauty can only realise her fantasies through words. The dialogue drifts between outright coarse and maddeningly cryptic. Lucy asks her friend Birdmann if he'll marry her, not as a proposal, but as self-assurance. This suggests again that the characters in Leigh's world need to hear what they want to hear to be satisfied. The film falters with these side characters like Birdmann because we don't know enough about them and they tend to fade in and out of the film for lengthy stretches of time. And some will lament Emily Browning's subdued performance for its lack of personality but given the dream-like state of her character it actually suits the film. Her slender frame too makes her a particularly diminutive outcast. The film's ambiguity, isolation and peculiarity, will be detrimental for a lot of viewers. It's unlikely to attract big audiences because it is a slow, unnerving experience. But it's difficult to fault the film's artistry and its originality. Some people at the screening I went to left early. More fool them. I kept watching.
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Don't Fall Asleep. You Might Miss It!
Marter220 December 2011
When you create a film and title it "Sleeping Beauty," you had better not make it boring. Otherwise, you'll get reviews utilizing every possible play on the word "sleep," but more importantly, word of mouth will spread using the same types of puns. When you use a title made famous by the Disney animation, you're going to have to guard against those comparisons as well. As you can see, this film is already on the defensive.

To put even more pressure on "Sleeping Beauty," before it has even begun, is the fact that it is the directorial debut of a novelist. Julia Leigh also wrote the screenplay, but it is her first time stepping behind the camera to helm a film production. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it means an even bigger risk was taken by the studios, and just as many debuts fall flat as they do flourish. Luckily, Leigh's is a success, even if her film isn't going to be something that many people are going to enjoy.

To start the film, we begin by watching the daily routine of a young woman named Lucy (Emily Browning). The first scene made me cringe, as we find out that one of her many jobs involves testing out medical equipment. We watch a tube being inserted down her throat. This is done in one unflinching shot that has the opposite effect on the viewer. Later on, we learn she also does office work and works at a restaurant, but the medical testing was by far her worst job.

Why does she need to work three jobs? That's really a good question. We learn that she's behind on her rent, and also goes to school. Maybe school is really expensive, but she only seems to have one class, which can't be too heavy a burden. She's renting a room from people she knows, and I wouldn't think that would be that expensive either. Why she doesn't pay her rent on time, I'll never know. This isn't a film that's going to lay things out for you.

Because working three jobs isn't enough for Lucy, she inquires about an ad in the paper that requires her to serve dinner to old rich men while wearing lingerie. It pays $250 an hour, although it's freelance work, we're told. She works once, and after she gets home, she burns a $20 bill. Why? Again, I don't know, and it's actions like this that make me think she isn't wanting for cash. Regardless, working multiple jobs, including the dinner-while-wearing-lingerie one, continues for most of the film, even as her performance gets so bad that she sometimes sleeps on the floor while working.

Sleeping is something she'll end up doing quite a bit as the film continues on. She was told when she took the server job that there were opportunities for promotion. She gets that chance later on, when she's told that she can take a drug, lay naked in bed while passed out, and sleep for a few hours. Oh, and an elderly man will come in and sleep with her while she's knocked out. "Sleep with" in the literal sense of the meaning, as actual intercourse is forbidden.

Not that Lucy really cares. She doesn't seem to care much about herself, and would probably have accepted the job without the binding rule. She's the type of nihilist that will do whatever anyone wants her to do at the flip of a coin. At a bar, she's approached and asked if she wants some cocaine. "Why not?" is her response. Later, two men she just met actually use a coin to decide which one would have sex with her that night. She doesn't care, although come to think of it, I can't remember her saying "no" once to anyone in the film. She's very polite, even if she has no regard for her own body.

There's a lot of symbolism in the film, and if you thought this was a film that's going to make it easy on you, you can look elsewhere. You're going to have to infer a great deal about the characters and their reason for doing what they do for most of the time you watch them. I can see this being seen by some as a lack of character depth and development, but I think it's all there and just hidden behind imagery and a classic fairy tale. The way I saw "Sleeping Beauty," it actually does steal a couple of things from Disney cartoon. Unfortunately, giving that away now might change the way you view the film, so instead, go in with as fresh a mind as you can. This is a movie that will reward subsequent viewings.

If there's a problem here, it's the character of Lucy. She's often difficult to like, and because she's such an apathetic person, not a lot goes on. She's little farther, for better or worse, when the film ends than when it began. None of the blame can go to Emily Browning, as she plays her without fear, but the way the character is written means that she's not exactly amiable or has a decent enough personality to build a film around. This is largely forgotten about once it gets going, but upon reflection, making her grow as the film progressed would have improved it as a whole.

Regardless, I was engaged by "Sleeping Beauty." Is it for everyone? Not at all. If you like artsy films that are there for you to figure out instead of being told everything about them, then it might work for you. It has a solid performance from Emily Browning in the lead role, and it has enough imagery and symbolism to keep you coming back for another watch. That is, if you don't fall asleep during the first time.
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he_who_leads8 August 2011
This movie's trailer got people talking because of its very Kubrick vibe. And, in fact, the movie explores territory very similar to 'Eyes Wide Shut'. How sex has become more liberal and extreme, yet also sterile and disconnected.

The lead character, Lucy, (Emily Browning - a long way from Lemony Snicket) exhibits this. She'll sleep with people at the drop of a hat, yet with little evidence of desire. In fact, there's hardly any evidence that she processes strong emotions at all. She just goes about her business. Things happen to her, and she's too reticent to shrug them off.

To solve financial worries, Lucy gets a job at a posh, exclusive establishment where she is willingly placed naked and unconscious in a bedroom for a client, to do with her as he wishes (except penetration).

Through Lucy and the various clients, we see how we need vulnerability in others to relax the masks that we wear. Otherwise, we are so preoccupied with maintaining an image that we don't even try and connect with others. Emily Browning does well at rounding out the expressionless Lucy, and the voyeuristic nature of the material makes the movie entertaining. Unfortunately, the ending, though a pretty logical conclusion, also feel anti-climatic, a tad obvious and leaves us feeling short-changed.

The film is an interesting, respectful, non-gratuitous effort, yet many will ultimately find it like the leading lady - pretty impenetrable.
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The debut feature film by novelist Julia Leigh is anything but artistic
Candice29 November 2011
Warning: Spoilers
The debut feature film by novelist Julia Leigh is anything but artistic, which is a goal that she obviously set out to achieve. Sleeping Beauty follows a university student going from one mundane job to another until she eventually settles into a position where she is put into a coma-like state so that old men can fondle her naked body while she lies in bed, lifeless. This interpretation of the classic fairy tale goes beyond provocative, but falls flat due to the lack of purpose of the main protagonist.

Lucy, played by Australian actress Emily Browning, is the anti-hero without any redeeming qualities. We first see her in a lab, where she is a subject in an experiment. While she sits there, quiet and static, we see the lab technician begin his experiment by testing her gag reflex as he gently shoves a long tube down her throat until she cannot take anymore. It is unnerving and uncomfortable, which sets the tone for the film.

We soon encounter the people in her life, such as her housemates who don't engage with her on a personable level, only on a business level by asking for her rent, and her needing to clean the house (subtle shout out to Cinderella?). Soon we meet Birdmann, a man who lives a small apartment littered with horded possessions, who is supposed to be Lucy's anchor and heart. However, there is something off about their relationship. While she makes him a bowl of cereal (with vodka instead of milk) their interaction is stagnant and to an extent, pointless. Who is this man? How do they know each other? Why doesn't she live with him? Too many questions rise from this relationship, but we are never let in as we are always kept at arm's length from discovering who the characters really are.

Tiresomely, the film goes on and Lucy answers an ad for high-end 'waitressing' for extra cash so she can make rent. This leads to an interview of scrutinous proportions, as she is poked and prodded and intimately examined by the Madame, played by Rachael Blake. She is soon hired, starting her journey as a high-end escort.

Her first gig is to serve a handful of elderly men (and one woman who is Benita from Play School, my childhood is now shattered!!) in a lavish mansion, wearing revealing white lingerie, whilst the other girls wear black (and certainly not sexy as it makes their breast look like baby bottles). The dinner party has somewhat of an Eyes Wide Shut vibe, with the setting and tone, but not as compelling.

Lucy falls deeper and deeper into this lifestyle, eventually offering herself to be put into a coma-like state as mentioned earlier. The film tries to show the softer side to these men in an effort to make us understand their desires, however, this creates long, boring monologues which ends in showing us an old mans cock (excuse my French).

On a positive note, the film looks beautiful. There was precise precision and technique applied to this film to give it a very European look. The sets, costumes and design is a thing of beauty which does keep you entranced. But by the time the third old mans penis came around, I literally could watch no more. There are not many films that I walk out on because as a critic and movie goer, there is a level of respect you must give the filmmakers. However on this occasion, I was at my last tether.

It was the lack of emotion throughout the film which ultimately made it all style without any substance. As much as I wanted to like the film, it was guilty of pretentious overload.
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"If she's unconscious, we ain't limp." (Yeah, keep believing that.)
Boloxxxi19 October 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Nobody in the movie actually said the lines above but it is the clear implication when a bunch of wealthy, but sexually and emotionally impotent old men gratify themselves (sort of) with a drugged, unconscious young woman.

A young woman (Lucy) is hired by a service that caters to old rich guys. It's kind of an Old Guys Club where scantily clad and semi-nude young women serve the members their meals and drinks, and such. Of particular note though -and hence the title- is that this young woman is later hired for extra duties that calls for her to take some drug that puts her to sleep while the old guys (individually) have there way with her (They wish!). However there is a stipulation of "no penetration" (Drats!)

It is the offbeat nature of this movie and it's curious lead character that makes it interesting. If there were lots of movies like this I might have given it a lower rating (Someone else might have done it better, who knows). But this movie is kind of out there by itself. Another of those "little movies" giving big-budget productions the finger by being more interesting than many of them; doing more with less money but with more courage, intelligence, and originality.

Lucy is a "passive-aggressive" harboring resentment against those who dominate her and herself for letting them. The movie is all about her curious way of living with and remedying this situation. Lucy fights back by being compliant -or pliant- take your pick. As well, by doing "small things" (petty) to get back at the powers that be. I had to feel sorry for her and chuckle at the same time when she took a handful of berries or something and dumped them quietly in the back of an expensive and well kept car. Another example of her "getting back" is that the first thing she did when she got her first payment for her services to the Old Guys Club is burn one of the bills. This she did not to their face, but quietly, by herself at home. That, in my humble opinion, was a big passive-aggressive "F!!ck you!" to the powers that be. There's a basic recklessness in Lucy that seems self-destructive. This young woman probably has never said "No" to any drug she's ever been offered. If you choose to see the movie you might wind up being an arm-chair psychologist like myself. So it's a movie that makes you think, makes you wonder, "What's up with that girl?"

There is a clear irony here: The old men are influential and rich but they're also sexually impotent. Lucy on the other hand, while not having their wealth, self-confidence, and influence is a potent sexual symbol; young, attractive, and desirable. Some of the old guys admire it, others resent it. Two types of cripples, then, drawn to each other. One needing youth, beauty, and sexual power and the other financially dependent on them and lacking the courage to stick up for herself; assert her own person. Finally, I'm thinking that if the old guys could have a boner they'd want Lucy awake to see it. Love, Boloxxxi.
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Pointless, Boring, Pretentious and Unpleasant Garbage
Claudio Carvalho6 September 2012
Warning: Spoilers
The nihilist college girl Lucy (Emily Browning) has a dysfunctional family and lives together with her sister and brother-in-law. She is financially supported by three minor jobs: she is submitted to a weird experiment in a laboratory; she cleans a restaurant; and she takes photocopies in an office. She finds an advertisement in the newspaper offering a job in a fancy brothel and paying US$ 250.00 per hour. The madam Clara (Rachael Blake) hires her and she is assigned to serve drinks to wealthy clients on a dinner table wearing lingerie. Then Clara drugs her and she spends the night sleeping naked with impotent man that can do any kinkiness with her body but penetration.

"Sleeping Beauty" is a pointless, boring, pretentious and unpleasant garbage. Everything is wrong in this movie: Emily Browning can be anything but a beauty; every character is unpleasant; there is no explanation, moral or whatever to explain the self-destructive behavior of Lucy. The film does not even shock the audience since it is not bold or bizarre enough in the sex scenes. I thought that she was doing all of that just for money but she inexplicably burns a one hundred-dollar bill. But maybe the worst is that this crap was written and directed by a woman. My vote is one (awful).

Title (Brazil): "Beleza Adormecida" ("Sleepy Beauty")
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Will resonate in your mind for some time
tomgillespie200220 October 2011
Warning: Spoilers
In a scene towards the climax of the film, we see Lucy (Emily Browning), taking a lesson at university where the lecturer seems to be analyzing a game of chess. The question is proposed, asking why would someone make a move securing their defeat? This seems to be relevant for Browning's character throughout this very interesting tale of sexual depravity and the detachment of the female body to the masculine libido. Lucy works her way through education, financing her way with various menial jobs. She begins a job with an exclusive, and very clandestine operation, beginning simply with silver service waitressing in "risque" negligee. This of course progresses into a more dangerous level, when she is offered a very well-paid gig involved a drugging so that she may sleep whilst a client does what he wishes. Although, as promised in Lucy's first interview, "Your vagina will not be penetrated". From first time director Julia Leigh, the film has various similarities to Luis Bunuel's excellent Belle de Jour (1967), mainly in it's depiction of a strong female character who wishes to delve into a dangerous world of male desires. However, unlike Bunuel's film, Leigh has created a character in Lucy, who seems utterly detached from the people around her. She does visit Birdman (Ewne Leslie), who seems to be agoraphobic, but this is not elaborated on. She seems also very willing to do things without questioning. In one scene she is offered a pill after her work in a restaurant, she asks what it is, but takes it without having had an answer. The film is self-consciously European in it's atmosphere and pace. The handling of the subject matter is never gratuitous, neither does it spoon feed a message of masochistic perversity. Browning is excellently vacuous in the role, gently drifting from situation to situation with not a question or any adversity. The film is beautiful to look at (and I don't just mean the alabaster figure of the nude Browning), it's pallet of autumnal colours adding extra references to 1970's European cinema. There is no doubt that this film will divide viewers. Dirty old men ogling over a sleeping, naked 22 year old, will make for uncomfortable viewing for some, but I felt that this was not exploitational in it's depiction. We also never really see what these old men do in the time they are given with the "sleeping beauty". All we get is an almost confessional from one of the customers. After being advised by Clara (Rachel Blake) that there is no penetration, the client states: "The only way I can get a hard-on, is if I take 12 Viagra and get a beautiful lady to shove her fingers up my arse". The films conclusion is haunting, beautifully realised and ambiguous. It certainly raises more questions than it answers about this detached and seemingly passive female character in a world of strange male desire. A film that will resonate in your mind some time after it has finished.
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Wearily negative
Bloomer11 June 2011
Warning: Spoilers
The depiction of human nature in this film is not completely miserable, but it's pretty miserable. Emily Browning plays the largely inscrutable Lisa, a university student in Sydney already exhibiting degrees of nihilistic behaviour before she signs on as a silver service lingerie waitress in a very weird, hoity-toity brothel of sorts. She quickly 'graduates' to the position of Sleeping Beauty in which, while voluntarily drugged and asleep, she becomes a sexual prop for grey-haired men rich enough to pay for the service. While asleep, she sees and knows nothing of what happens, but the audience of this film sees plenty. What is seen and heard is more disturbing than it is visually explicit, excepting the nudity of all involved, especially Browning's.

The question is - what is all this about? It is beautifully designed and photographed in still, square-on Kubrick style, with minimal editing and music. There are degrees of suspense and disturbance, mystery and eroticism, but there isn't much of a vector for any of these elements. The characters are variously arch and obnoxious, cold, stupid, reckless and unkind. We know little about any of them, and most of what we do learn doesn't make much sense. Bizarrely, the kindest person in the film seems to be the madam of the brothel, played by a magnificently still Rachael Blake.

I wondered, while watching Sleeping Beauty, how it was going to end itself. The final scene is pretty unsatisfying, given that the resolution depends on Lisa eventually seeking to find out what has been going on during her sleeps - something the audience doesn't just know already, but has watched at length as fact. And there is a twist which potentially confuses the denouement.

There is no doubting that this film is an experience and finely made, but there's a strain of dumb misery and pessimism at work here along the lines of Catherine Breillat and Michael Haneke. Everybody is hopeless and unkind, they don't know what they want, they can't evolve, they don't want to evolve. Lisa seems interested in a promiscuous brand of self-destruction for reasons the audience basically has to invent. The whole film also teeters on the edge of being one of those pieces where every single man is depicted as being a sex-enslaved scumbag. What you're left with is an aesthetically interesting film with a strong sensibility, but which is wearily negative about everything, and whose ending is also a letdown on the film's own terms.
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Long winded utterly boring story
Claudia2 February 2012
Warning: Spoilers
Total waste of time. What a disappointment this movie. I still have no clue why she burned her money, after all she had to pay the rent. I also don't understand the relationship with the Birdman, or the fact that she is asking another friend to marry her, the mom that calls her and asks for her credit card, why she lies to Clara about using drugs and alcohol, why she became sick in the car (is she pregnant?) or why she suddenly started to scream after she woke up for the last time. And what about that very last scene that takes ages? What's the purpose of that? I just don't get it. The whole movie is a collection of utterly boring long winded scenes that often are not related to each other. People come out of nowhere and disappear just like that, nothing is explained. Sure I understand that there needs to be something to make my own mind work, but this is complete confusion. I even had no idea what she did in that lab, I thought she was examined because of an illness. I suppose the purpose of the silences is to cause an artsy effect? I often just wanted to stop watching because I was annoyed, decided however to sit it out in the hope there would be something explained later. But alas, this was never the case.

The only star goes to the stunning beauty Emily, it's not her fault, it's the story and the director who made this film a piece of of s**t. The trash bin is good for this.
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A challenging and rewarding film experience.
OutlawsDeLejos30 June 2011
Warning: Spoilers
As the credits came up at the end of Sleeping Beauty the audience reaction was immediate, half chuckled nervously and I heard the word "What?" thrown around a bit. The other half stared ahead, absorbing what we'd just seen. It's clear that this will divide audiences.

Julia Leigh's directorial debut from her own screenplay follows the emotionally complex character Lucy (Emily Browning), a university student with a multitude of part-time jobs and a social life that can only be described as controversial. It's made clear early on that Lucy has no solid relationships, the only friend she's seen out with her seems more like a madam than a friend, her kinder flatmate is too weak to defend her from her male counter-part, her unseen mother is an abusive alcoholic chasing Lucy for money and her father is either long absent or passed away. There is only 'Birdman', a young man slowly dying from alcoholism cast away from Lucy's ex-boyfriends circle of friends. His company seems to be cathartic for Lucy, an alcoholic that is kind and not abusive like her mother.

When Lucy responds to an ad in the University paper for 'Silver Service Waitress' she is introduced to Clara (Rachael Blake), a 'madam' for want of a better word. Rachael Blake's performance is tonally perfect, her Clara is elegant and seemingly disenchanted with her work. When she gives Lucy details of each task she is too perform, it always comes with a warning, each step is explained with an obvious and painful personal knowledge of the job. This sort of work is new for Lucy, it's forces social interaction which she was adept at avoiding in all her other jobs. And it also forces her into a position of submission, not at all something she is used to in her usual role as the dominate sexual partner in her string of empty encounters with middle aged, middle-class businessmen.

Lucy's role in the Sleeping Chamber comes across as something akin to a hearthstone where wealthy old men gather to realize or recapture feelings long since lost or denied to them, intimacy, sexual dominance and physical strength are examples of themes her subdued body are exposed to, even in this secret world of control they still fail and it's Lucy that absorbs the cost.

Nearly every important scene and transaction in the film is hidden in subtext, Leigh makes the audience work to make the connections and draw conclusions by dropping breadcrumbs and leaving enough for us to see the whole story without having to resort to spoon fed exposition. It makes for an interesting contrast, characters that feel entirely real viewed through cold artistic lens. This approach does present a challenge not only to the filmmakers but the audience, Lucy is very much a curious protagonist. She's cold and reckless, acts on the most childish of impulses in an effort to keep everyone at arms length. It's justifiable though, her family, her friends and her ex have let her down. Even Clara fails to uphold her promise to protect her from violation.

Emily Browning is a powerful force in the film, finding the perfect balance of a young woman struggling to hold her wall up against the world, but giving us enough to glimpse a real person underneath the cracks through something as subtle as the softening of her eyes. She shows an extreme level of dedication to the role, not only adhering to the required nudity, but also the context of those scenes, it becomes very intense viewing. Don't expect titillation to be found anywhere here, the uncovered flesh is a tool of contrast. Despite the ethereal beauty Emily Browning commands on screen, there is nothing sexy about what you see. But in the end, I found her to still be a real person, I sympathized and indeed felt for her.

Sleeping Beauty is much like the blooming of a flower, all the petals open slowly in unison, not one at a time, it isn't until it's finished can we admire it in it's entirety. And there is a lot to admire here if you go in with an open mind, look past the stylized exterior and delve underneath.

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not only a terrible film, it's not even original
Alexey Zinger19 December 2011
I left the theater after seeing Sleeping Beauty shaking my head. Both my wife and I felt more than a little cheated. It really takes a special kind of bad to make a beautiful girl -- prostrated naked all over the screen for the better part of the movie -- boring and unappealing. And yet, this is precisely what we got from it. Why? The problem seems to be that much of the tension and drama hinges on empathizing with Emily Browning's character, a girl shallow and adrift, yet simultaneously cold to the world. Financial predicaments and dissatisfaction with life make her teen angst blossom into ugliness. The expression "bored people are boring" comes to mind.

I do not wish to recount plot details beyond what is outlined in the summary, in case you decide to see the film for yourself. However, tonight my wife discovered an earlier film from Germany, which shocked us, having seen Sleeping Beauty so recently. The film is called "House of the Sleeping Beauties", directed by Vadim Glowna in 2006, based on Yasunari Kawabata's much older novel. What's peculiar is that House of the Sleeping Beauties is so painfully close to Sleeping Beauty, it's not funny. Virtually every critical plot point is present in both films. And yet, House of the Sleeping Beauties is made from a completely different perspective and strikes a decidedly different tone. It's more nuanced, more three-dimensional, more mysterious. It's... just better. The night we saw Sleeping Beauty, my wife and I agreed that despite all the drawbacks, the premise held something and the film could have been good. House of the Sleeping Beauties is that better film.

I sincerely hope that Julia Leigh meant to reference the earlier German work and create an interplay between them. It's an interesting idea. Though, I'm a bit skeptical, seeing as there appears no mention of the other it anywhere in the credits, nor in marketing or writing around Sleeping Beauty itself.
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90 minutes of plot less nonsense
targetboy15 October 2011
I will carefully watch the career of Director Leigh and at all costs avoid anything that she ever makes again. There is a severe and astounding lack of story line or plot and any promise of a haunting, thrilling complex tale is a flat out lie. The film is a disjointed sequence of odd non relating scene's some of which are totally pointless and the rest are only fairly pointless. I would recommend anyone to watch anything else than this. There is no subtext, there is no complexity only pretentious gibberish. I hope this does not mean the end of Emily Browning, who was faultless in Sucker Punch but if that is the cost of never hearing of this film again it will be a bargain. 1 star and a grudging one at that!
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A Bizarre & Uncomfortable Art Film
Angel Clare20 August 2013
Featuring Australian actress Emily Browning in the titular role, this bizarre and uncomfortable art film is almost worth watching for her exquisitely pretty face alone; but alas, she plays an utterly depressed character completely devoid of feelings, emotions, and, well, character—a combination uncomfortable to watch whatever face is behind it.

Sleeping Beauty finds Emily Browning portray a college student who allows herself to be drugged into unconsciousness and played with by perverted old men for money—though in a bizarre turn of events it turns out she seems to care for the money as much as she does her maltreated body.

She also has a bizarre friend known as "Bird Man" who seems to be in love with her. Whatever the case—long periods of naked unconsciousness; old wrinkled men in the buff; and a seriously depressed, repressed, oppressed, and suppressed protagonist make this a very bizarre and uncomfortable art film.

(Disclaimer: The film features gorgeous cinematography and has an affecting plot, even if it isn't entirely discernible. Certainly worth watching)
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i don't think i get Australian films!
bwickens843 November 2011
Warning: Spoilers
This is by far the worst film i have ever seen!! The fade-outs are far too long there are scenes that are completely pointless the only thing that this movie has going for it is the unnecessary amount of nudity. But to be fair i would not expect anything less from an Australian film! The maids outfits were by far non-flattering, the storyline was more than confusing if not non-existent, i honestly have no idea what that film was about the end was beyond pointless and everything in-between was unnecessary. Don't get me wrong the acting was very good but the direction, screenplay and editing i feel was terrible. I personally would class this as more of a soft core porn with a story that could have been far better than it is, but everyone is allowed their own opinion!
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Draw your own conclusions.
toronto movies23 September 2011
A haunting story that serves its character to its audience on a clean plate. Full of strange characters, all seeking love and connection in different ways.

The good:

A stunning performance from Emily Browning.

Stripped down, any attempt at explaining the characters in this film on screen runs the risk of preaching to the audience.

Provoked a lot of discussion.

This is not Disney's Sleeping Beauty.

The bad:

A very unnerving sexual scene that creeped everyone in the movie theater out (though that might be a good thing).

This type of film certainly isn't for everyone.

This is not Disney's Sleeping Beauty.

The dinner scenes were a little boring.
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No anaesthetic, thank you, doctor...
nihao17 April 2012
An interesting choice. Prostitution amidst university students. Rich old men who spend their money on flesh. Modern 'dettachment'... separating the body from the heart, the soul, the mind. Most of the critics of this film seem to dwell on complaining that "our world is not like that! All the people here are horrible...!!!" Of course they are missing the point. We are watching crude realities, but also dreams, symbols, Freudian/Jungian fetishes... A woman is directing. Jane Campion is producing. This is also a 'clue' that MAYBE there is more to this film than meets the eye... Behind the veneer are MANY hidden truths.( Behind the Twin Towers, behind the choice of a black president after a guy like Bush jr.) Separation from the truth. We are all 'anaesthetised'... so Lisa is NOT so strange, after all. Money rules. Maybe we are victims of our society, of our times. We are 'dead', as T.S. Eliot wrote some years ago. Of course the world is full of wonderful, hearty, passionate and generous people. But this film aims elsewhere, and I myself feel grateful to its director, scriptwriter (and , why not, actress) for taking the plunge, and re-floating Pasolini's 'Salò' in a more digestible (maybe more intelligent?) guise. Kubrick? His last movie may still reveal something in the future (ALL his films age very well), but he was an elderly man, and this young director seems to have the upper-hand in as much as hitting the nail on the head with the 'ésprit-du-temps', the 'Zeitgeist' or, more plainly,(and painfully), the new age our youth are forced to grow up in. Somewhat puzzled at first, I gave this film a chance...let it 'breathe', in my conscience and intellect. I'm glad I did. It contains more than one morsel of food for thought.
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Written by Julia Leigh? What about Yasunari Kawabata?
shallowphil17 February 2012
Warning: Spoilers
Little bit of spoilerism...

I really enjoyed the feel of this film but a nagging doubt was in the back of my mind, because it reminded me of something else. The pacing and the overall feel is very Japanese, particularly those writers from the post-Edo period, who worked in the 30's and 40's and who pined for the old values...

Then the title of a book I saw yesterday grabbed me...

This central premise of this film - a girl is placed in a deep sleep so that impotent old men can ogle and touch her - is heavily based upon a short story by Yasunari Kawabata called House Of The Sleeping Beauties, written in 1961. Kawabata is not credited in the end-titles. He won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1968 and died in 1972.

Leigh is playing with this information, obviously thinking of it as a hipsterish in-joke of the "you've probably never heard of it..." type. There are other references to works by Kawabata, such as the lecture about a game of Go. Kawabata wrote a novel called The Master Of Go in 1933 and it pretty covers the question by the lecturer in that scene. The whisking of the sleeping potion refers to the Japanese tea ceremony, a detailed description of which also occurs in one of Kawabata's stories (maybe Master of Go, I can't remember).

It is a pity she didn't acknowledge her dues to this excellent Japanese writer as awareness of his works out of Japan, while relatively substantial, is certainly not mainstream. Many more readers could have discovered his wonderful stories. Well not all that many, as hardly anyone watched the movie...
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Flawed Beauty
alecharris20049 October 2011
Warning: Spoilers
There's a lot to be applauded in the debut feature of Julia Leigh; not least of which the performance of Emily Browning who shows incredible talent and fearlessness in portraying a young woman who cannot connect to the world around her and who, essentially, is sleeping her way through life.

There's also a lot to be commended in Leigh's use of single camera, 'open' takes, allowing the actors to stretch into a scene and build emotional resonance over the arc of a scene; the same as theater. - the first scene shot for example was the death of 'birdman'. A scene that is both pivotal and incredibly hard on Browning. And not one you would usually choice for the first day of filming and it's a credit to both Leigh and Browning that it's pitch perfect.

Where it falls however, is in Leigh's use of film making. The single shot take is a great acting tool, but a weak and unnecessary editing one. The only two transitions used are seemingly 'cut to' and 'fade to black' and this doesn't help the audience in terms of emotional journey.

The use of symbolism, for example - the trail of berries, the open door, the house in the woods - lacks impact due to the single shots employed.

The aforementioned death of Birdman scene is transitioned to a mid shot scene of Lucy wiping tables with no visual clues as to why, leaving the incredibly painful, beautifully acted ending somewhat lost on all but the most observant.

We may, honestly, understand the ending. We may get the relationship of Lucy & Birdman. We may even accept her choices. But I don't think the film maker has done enough to help us enter the world and personas she has wonderfully.

Orson Welles famously tells the tale of his first day as director and being taken aside by the cinematographer who 'taught him everything he needed to know about film making in 12 hours'.

What Leigh needed here was a better cinematographer.
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It will more likely turn you into a sleeping beauty instead.
Boba_Fett11383 December 2011
It's not like I'm not capable of appreciating a good artistic or original movie, on the contrary really but this movie is offering far too little to make it stand out on any level.

Perhaps it's true that I'm simply getting fed up with these sort of movies, since I have seen far too many of them already. It's the sort of movie that's all too well aware of its style and realizes very well its being part of the more artistic, independent movie genre. It's therefore being just like any other movie out of the genre basically, without offering anything new or provoking.

It has a very deliberate and well thought out and planned, style of film-making to it. It doesn't feel spontaneous in any way. The movie very rarely cuts away. When there is a cut in this movie, it means that the scene is over and another one, set at another place will start. The camera does move at times but lots of times the movie only consists purely out of static shots, with characters sitting or standing in the foreground. It's all too forced and obvious and if I want a front-view of actors, with a few props and sets, I'll go and watch a stage-play. The possibilities with movies are now days pretty much endless, yet the movie is doing absolutely nothing with it. It's minimalistic and slow, up to a point that the movie actually starts to become a bit of a drag. It manages to make 104 minutes seem like a very long time!

So is the movie pretentious? It's deliberately trying to be an artistic one, with its images and storytelling but I wouldn't go as far as saying it's being a pretentious one, since this is director's Julia Leigh first movie and I do believe all of her intentions with it were very honest. Still she really needs to work on developing a style of her own, that really suits her and the stories she is trying to tell with her movies. There now still is nothing that makes her style unique from anything else, or distinctive in any way. It also wouldn't had harmed the movie if she got a more experienced screenplay writer to come in and help to write the story with her. I actually do feel and believe that the story worked well on paper but on the silver screen it really falls flat.

It all really could had still worked out well if the movie indeed had an intriguing story or main character in it. But the movie tries to tell its story more so with its images, rather than featuring a real good main plot line or emotions in it. It does come across a bit as some lazy film-making; 'Don't worry about the script or actors, just place a camera in a room and let the emptiness and remoteness of the scene tell the whole story'. Sorry, I just really wasn't falling for that.

It does make Emily Browning's role also a bit of an ungrateful one. Ever since she had been appearing in movies and series as a child, it was apparent that she would one day not only grow into becoming a beautiful woman but also a great star and actress. However after seeing her in this movie it also becomes apparent that she isn't quite ready for it to play a lead role and carry a movie almost entirely on her own. But all of the blame can't fall entirely on her in this case, since it probably was director Julia Leigh that told her to play her character as a very distant and emotionally bland one. Seriously, she is hardly ever showing any emotions on her face. You can't really tell if she is ever happy or sad and as a viewer it makes you feel very detached from her. This is also because she is doing some very unusual and unlikely things in this movie. It never becomes really apparent why she does them and why she is the way that she is. The movie is not really offering you an exploration into a young woman's mind and her journey in life, on her way of becoming a true woman. Just like many of its scene's, the movie feels mostly as a very empty and distant one.

And what was with here wearing the same type of clothes throughout the entire movie? She is either wearing a skirt or a dress, with some high boots, or she is either half- or completely naked. Nothing wrong with showing some skin but Emily Browning's body looks like a 13-year old, even while she was 23 at the time. The clothes she was wearing really didn't seemed to suit her body type and it actually worked quite distracting for me. It made me want to send her some money, so she could buy some pants and normal shoes.

Some people might still get something out of the movie its images or will read deeper into some of the movie its moments but personally I got very little out of this movie. It was a very empty movie story-wise and an emotionally bland one, that by the end left nothing more than a very redundant impression on me.

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Er, what was that?
When writing a review for IMDb you have to select whether or not that review is going to contain spoilers. On this occasion however I can confidently say that this review will not contain spoilers, mainly because I've no idea what just happened!

I like a good art house film, and totally understand storytelling in which "less is more". It's nice to be treated with enough respect by a writer/director that I don't have to have everything spelled out for me. But Sleeping Beauty took this to the extreme being giving away virtually nothing.

This film consists of a series of seemingly unrelated snippets; Lucy's flatmates, the Birdman, the various temp jobs, and then ultimately the strange/erotic sleeping arrangements which the film is sold on. I've no doubt that the writer and director have something they want to say through this (no one makes a film for no reason and I love art-driven film because that reason tends to be more meaningful that the box office take) However, you can't put a few streaks of paint on a canvas in the style of another great Austrailian artist, and then down tools with "Can you tell what it is yet?"

In some ways you'll find this film even more disappointing because in some ways it's very good. It is so beautifully shot and Emily Browning puts in a good follow-up to Suckerpunch. On this occasion there just isn't enough to bring those bits together into a coherent whole. In much the same way as we would all deride CGI heavy films that don't hit the mark; being pretty isn't enough if you don't have the substance behind it and they just forgot to put in enough ingredients to make a complete film this time.
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a rather dull and bland psychosexual drama
gregking422 June 2011
Warning: Spoilers
This new Australian film is a haunting erotic fairy tale that caused something of a controversy when it screened at Cannes earlier this year. Many will be drawn to the film to check out what all the fuss was about. No doubt they will be disappointed. As will the raincoat brigade, drawn by reports of full frontal nudity and the heavy sexual content of the film. Rather than a voyeuristic fantasy, Sleeping Beauty is a rather dull and bland psychosexual drama from Julia Leigh, a former novelist making her feature film debut here. Sleeping Beauty is a provocative but ultimately pointless study of sexual dynamics, female sexuality, liberation, and willing female submissiveness. Ace Aussie filmmaker Jane Campion (The Piano, etc has mentored Leigh and championed the film, and its easy to see her attraction to this film which explores familiar theme of female sexuality. But one wishes she had had more input into the filmmaking process. Lucy (played by Emily Browning, from Sucker Punch, etc) is a cash-strapped university student who is juggling three part-time jobs to make ends meet. In desperation, she takes on a high paying job in a high-end brothel. At first she starts out as a waitress, but is soon promoted to "sleeping beauty", which is when things become a little creepy. She is drugged, stripped, and, while unconscious, becomes a baby doll who is groped and caressed by older lonely men who do all manner of perverted things – except penetration, which is strictly forbidden – that border on the necrophilic. "You will go to sleep; you will wake up. It will be as if those hours never existed," Clara calmly explains, but Lucy grows curious and wants to know what goes on while she is asleep. At one stage it seemed like there was going to be an orgy scene, rather like Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut. Instead we get a strangely civil dinner party in which all the waitresses are scantily clad. There is something cold and detached about the sex scenes, which resemble Catherine Breillat's confronting oeuvre. This is a brave performance from Browning, who is nude or semi-naked for much of the time, yet manages to convey her emotionally fragile state. Rachael Blake (from Lantana, etc) is suitably cold and aloof as Clara, the madame of this high-class brothel that caters to a rather unusual clientele. The men who sleep with the narcoleptic Lucy are played by the urbane Peter Carroll, a sadistic and very creepy Chris Haywood, and a brutal Hugh Keayes-Byrne, who will forever be remembered as Toecutter from the original Mad Max. Unfortunately, Leigh's screenplay is sparse, and the overly pretentious dialogue is minimal and oblique, and gives little insight into character motivation. We are kept at a distance from the characters, and we feel little empathy or emotional connection with Lucy and her situation. We get very little backstory, apart from a few hints that point to her sense of desperation and worthlessness. Leigh's direction lacks flair, and when scenes are finished they slowly fade into black. However, the film has been beautifully shot by veteran cinematographer Geoffrey Simpson (Shine, Little Women, etc), who works with long takes and steady framing. His crisp images are gorgeous, and the film has a surface beauty that contrasts with its dark subject matter. However, it is hard to see what audience Leigh is aiming for with her film. Sleeping Beauty is a far cry from the familiar fairy tale and the animated Disney film from 1959. Given its unsettling subject matter and Leigh's frank approach, this is a film that will prove divisive and provoke debate over its artistic merits.
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This isn't art. This isn't poetry. This isn't good.
oneguyrambling20 April 2012
The movie is called Sleeping Beauty.

Women who watch might call it Stupid Beauty.

Guys will see it as Sleeping Booty.

I see it as an amazing feat for star Emily Browning, who managed to segue effortlessly from her role as the scantily clad pouting idiot in the execrable Sucker Punch into this. The film that I would choose Sucker Punch over.

Hang on, I just threw up in my mouth.

By day Beauty is an everyday teen, juggling school and multiple part time jobs and supplementing her income with submitting herself as a test bunny for medical and/or scientific research, (apparently into how long a woman can have a tube in her mouth without vomiting). She is apparently so busy that she never sees the Australian sun – albino Eskimos have better tans than Emily Browning.

Personal relationships seem fleeting at best, and generally see Beauty placating various people, an alcoholic (possibly abusive) mother, a friend with addiction, and more mundanely flatmates by coming up with the rent on time and doing some cleaning.

By day she is known as Lucy.

The evenings are spent with casual drinking, drug-taking and prostitution… After responding to a classified as Beauty finds what she sees as a promotion. No longer casual and freelance, she now gets to wear a uniform and serve clients – only her uniform is by no means in the Macca's style, and her clients are little more than rich old pervs.

By night she is known as Sara.

'Sara's' boss/madam/pimp is Claire. Claire is prim, proper and demanding. The customer is always right, regardless of how messed up or creepy he is.

The work is well paid but sporadic, but Beauty doesn't do it for the money. In one scene she casually burns a $100 note and watches it crinkle and melt without emotion. The 'job' involves nudity and submitting oneself to potential abuse and ridicule, but Beauty doesn't do it for titillation, satisfaction or compulsion. She just seems to do it. In fact, half way through the film I thought a better title might be The pasty girl who never says no. The phone rings, she answers, and with monotonous frequency heads of immediately at the caller's bidding.

Whether the director meant this to appear empowering or pathetic is beyond me.

Regardless of intent eventually Beauty finds another promotion, essentially becoming little more than the world's largest Pillow Pet for essentially the same clientele.

We learn practically nothing about Lisa/Sara/Beauty. The film has little music, minimal dialogue and moves at a languid pace like melted icecream down a kerb, but I would argue watching this is more of a tragedy than dropping your Drumstick.

Then with a scream it all finishes, and you wonder why. Keep your artsy. Save your fartsy for another day. To me this is 100% uncut dull and pointless fare. Sure we have an up and coming Hollywood starlet shedding her clothes frequently, apparently this is challenging, daring and mesmerizing.

I just wonder how challenging, daring and mesmerising it would all be if – how you say? – a more natural woman was in the lead. Say the girl from Precious instead of Casper's sister…

Final Rating – 3 / 10. This isn't art. This isn't poetry. No-one learns lessons. No-one is better for the experience. What it is is a drab two hour exercise in making beautiful female nudity distasteful and unlikable. If anything that is perhaps the film's crowning – and only – achievement.
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A great idea poorly executed.
Rockwell_Cronenberg18 October 2011
I was hoping for a lot from this movie, but it didn't really give me much of anything. Julia Leigh had some interesting ideas when it came to her approach, but I don't think she executed them well enough and as a result the film was just void of anything really. Obviously there wasn't going to be much by way of emotional influence, but there wasn't much on an intellectual level either. People are praising Emily Browning's performance as being incredibly "brave", which I suppose it is in the sense that it's brave to take off your clothes and have the things done to her on screen happen, but that doesn't make it a particularly good performance. She's not a competent actress by any means and this is just the strongest example of that so far.
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