Unrated, 1 hr. 44 min. Directed By: Julia Leigh. Release Date: Dec 2, 2011. DVD Release Date: Apr 10, 2012.
Sometimes I get the feeling that certain actors always seem to attract the same kinds of movies in the way that black holes attract light. I’m rapidly beginning to think that Emily Browning is one of those actresses. There are a number of vague similarities between Sleeping Beauty and the last Emily Browning film I saw, which was Sucker Punch, and before you go get all riled up, think at a very distant view of both tales. In both films, Emily Browning plays a woman who has clearly been victimized by something terrible, although in the latter film, Browning’s character fights back. Both movies have more attention paid to the scenery and visual effects than whatever it was the actors happened to be doing. Both movies have stories that seem to depend on a back story that we aren’t privy to, and that feel largely unfinished or raw as a result. Both movies seem to feel a certain lack of emotion, especially in those scenes where there should be some.
I’ll start with the positive. Visually, Sleeping Beauty is a beautiful film. Most of the settings are sophisticated, rich and opulent. Opulent is probably the right word. It actually feels a little off for Australia, since we’re usually treated to insights into the more, um, middle class folk in Oz. Like everywhere, Australia has its wealthy population, I’d just never seen any of them before. Think of it like that lipstick lesbian thing from Chasing Amy.
Therein lies my praise, more or less. It’s really pretty. Emily Browning is beautiful. But she spends most of the movie walking around like that Borg chick from Star Trek: Voyager. There’s a disconnect between camera and scene that feels off. I don’t feel that there was any effort to pull me in to this story; I was always meant to be an outsider, and quite frankly, I felt like one. It turned down pretty much every emotional reaction I could have to this movie. Dispassion was kind of a raison d’etre here. The characters are stiff and unyielding, with the exception of a few of the supporting cast. The dialogue feels heavy, a burden that the actors are relieving themselves of by shoving them into the waiting laps of the audience. Even the camera’s lack of motion contributes, a little, to the feeling that there’s a barrier.
And then there’s my problem with Lucy (Browning). I tried really, really hard, but I didn’t like Lucy. I’m pretty sure we weren’t meant to, and I’m not sure why. Could I have gotten over her part-time profession morally if she was merely trying to work her way through school? Sure, why not? But add in a life that might or might not have included prostitution, drugs, and a complete lack of compassion for most of the rest of the characters, and you have someone that isn’t easy to like.
In a nutshell, this movie wasn’t great, which was a disappointment since it made so many film festivals in 2011. It was kind of watchable, but not a second time. I’m also going to take the suggestion that maybe I shouldn’t be watching Emily Browning only because she’s easy on the eyes.