Sleeping Beauty

Living Doll Put to Sleep


11 December 2011| No Comments on Sleeping Beauty     by Sean Chavel


Infuriating, one for being offensive to women, and two being unsexy to men. Sleeping Beauty is an erotic drama from Australia about a libertarian young woman (Emily Browning of “Sucker Punch,” as Lucy) who succumbs to work a bizarre form of prostitution in order to pay her bills. At a swank brothel, she allows herself to be drugged unconscious so rich gentleman can fondle her sedated body for an entire night. She must not be penetrated, but the rules do endorse body worship (or gee, take mild abuse?). Obviously, the film suggests that there are some ineffectual men out there who can only get turned on by a girl under mute submission.

It is implied that Lily has experimented with drugs and alcohol, sex for money, sex for… the curio interest in being degraded (?) – maybe, we aren’t given clear answers. The film is cold and uninsightful about who Lucy is. At best, Lucy is an impassive, disaffected person. For no #$&%in’ reason, she burns the first money she receives from the job. What a free-spirit radical! We only thought she was doing it for the money so she wouldn’t have to be working those other three jobs (university experiment study, office copier assistant, café waitress).

In theory, if she enjoyed the highs of degradation in sexual situations, you think she would choose a job in the prostitution arena where she could remember the occurrences the next day so she could masturbate to them.

It’s not as if our protagonist has legitimate reason to suffer from low self-esteem. Lucy is well-desired by a myriad of acquaintances and random passer-by persons in her life, but she is unchoosy, and yet, alienated from everyone. She has one person she cares intently for who she visits often. Why is this one guy, Birdmann (Ewen Leslie) given such a misleading and vague personality? It is touched upon enough that Lucy cares about this guy’s feelings and spirituality – but how did they meet? What does he mean to her? Like every other pretentious puzzle piece in this film, it’s undisclosed.

This could be a surprise to you, but the writer/director of this project is by a woman. Julia Leigh, with her film debut, ends up saying nothing about the submission/dominance dynamics in contemporary sexuality, says nothing about the genesis motivating behavior of women surrendering to forms of humiliation, nor about the behavior of men whose needs are to claim absolute power over a woman’s body. Or it could be about an impotent man’s need to body worship a woman, but that isn’t offered here either.

No, Leigh’s style seems to set up sexual scenarios and then cut away to the next scene, leaving unexplained residues. “Sleeping Beauty” is an esoteric art film, one that is so terribly disjointed to the point where intellectual viewers aren’t given enough time to form ideas about the subtext of what’s going on underneath. It’s all very chilly and aloof (I’m not sure what this film caused mal-functioning in me first, my penis or my brain).

The final blow is the final scene. Lucy has finally come to that curious wondering stage. She awakens to set up her own surveillance camera in the middle of the night, to see through replay of what the johns do to her while she’s unconscious. Something has happened by the morning for the madam comes in to wake them both up, but the man isn’t conscious. The madam and the movie audience pick up that he’s dead, but Lucy is still at the moment unconscious. Lucy is jolted awake after the madam shakes her repeatedly and screams in a horrified way, because somehow, in some ridiculous badly directed movie scene, she has made the impossible presumption that her male patron is dead and not just still asleep. It’s not like the madam has made an explanation to her yet. Julia Leigh has finally treated her audience like gullible idiots.

Partly inspired by the equally deplorable German film “House of the Sleeping Beauties” (2009).

101 Minutes. Not Rated.


Film Cousins: “The Story of O” (1975); “The Opening of Misty Beethoven” (1977); “Crash” (1996); “Somersault” (2004).


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Sean Chavel

About The Author / Sean Chavel

Sean Chavel is a Hollywood based author and movie reviewer. He is the Executive Director of, a new website that has adapted the movie review site genre by introducing moodbased and movie experience based reviews.


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