Cannes 2011 Review: Emily Browning in Julia Leigh's 'Sleeping Beauty'

May 12, 2011

Sleeping Beauty  - Cannes Review

Julia Leigh's Sleeping Beauty is exactly the kind of film I hate. Made by an amateur Australian novelist-turned-filmmaker named Julia Leigh, who shouldn't be directing and, perhaps, should never direct again. It's bland, boring, tasteless, has a story about as thin as thread, is full of pointless fade outs and lacks more than 10 seconds of music in the entire film (which I cannot stand). I guess the redeeming value, if there was one, is that Aussie actress Emily Browning is naked in nearly every scene. But not even for good reason. A highly anticipated Cannes film and yep, it was awful, and I actually have something to say about it this time.

Now don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to be chauvinistic and say that the nudity was all that kept me hooked (because it didn't, it wasn't even that exciting). I would love to even try and explain some of the plot but that's quite a challenge because… there isn't one. Browning (last seen in Sucker Punch) plays a young Australian girl who, although she works three side jobs and is apparently taking college classes as well, decides to join a 'brothel for old people' - which is honestly the best description for it. (But they can't have sex with her.) Why does she join? No reason. Does it lead anywhere? Nope. That's all the movie is. Period.

Sleeping Beauty felt like a film where a random smattering of overly-pretentious, drawn out scenes were simply slapped together in chronological order in an attempt to tell a story. There's no editing, no creativity to it, nothing. How does she finish one segment to move on to the next? Slow fade to black. I don't even get how she was so pretentious directing her first film, it makes no sense. I've seen student films and short films which have more flair and structure and worthwhile storytelling than this fiasco. I don't even understand the point of why this film was made, it had nothing to say, and the lead character had no real messages either.

As I said at the start, this is just one of those films I cannot stand seeing, even though I did sit through it. It's so bad it frustrates me that it exists at all. Others can attempt to find meaning in it and they may, but I would be astonished. I'm not often this negative about films and when I am, I try to forget them as soon as I can. But this film was such a let down (it had a great trailer) that I wanted more than ever to voice my opinion about how pointless, bland, pretentious and frustrating it was to watch all 101 minutes of this atrocity. Stay away at all costs. It's not worth it, not even for Browning. Now if only I could fade to black

Alex's Cannes Rating: 2 out of 10

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  • RhythmDave
    sounds like a blast! heh
  •  I'll probably pass, but interesting nonetheless.
  • Danimal
     Not gonna lie....this review made me laugh lol. I've never heard you THAT negative I just reeeeally wanna see how bad this movie is.
  • Anonymous
     Yeah coming from someone who gave Thor high remarks...huh ok.
    • Doylemetheus
      I am trying to think of a hilarious way to call you pretentious. I might be back later if I think of one.
      • Belly
        He may very well be pretentious, but Thor was seriously not a great film. Battle LA was pretty bad too. Maybe if Alex had have been on set and spent time with/had a personal interview with the director of Sleeping Beauty he'd have given it a better rating.. 😉
  • cineman
     This is what I was thinking it would be - perhaps not quite this bad. It definitely has the feeling of style over substance.
  • basedgodard
    Alex, my man. Take a breather. You've been relentlessly subjective in this review. Not up to par with most of the other things you write on this site. This is more of a journal entry than a review.
    •  Isn't a review by definition subjective...?
      • basedgodard
        Yes, in a base sense it is subjective, but I would think that a reviewer's aim is to be credible in her/his "subjective" stance. This credibility can come in many forms. For me (since we have recognized in inherent subjectivity of "arguments") that credibility comes from placing the film in the context of cinematic or art history, the film's relation to other films, it's specific aesthetic or plot or technique's highs or lows, etc. Though Alex does address some of these points, he does so in a very reactive way that lends itself to diary writing or complaining. The fact that he doesn't like films without scores or plentiful music is a subjective point made, but it is haphazardly thrown out without any backing to why.   
        • RhythmDave
          I see this site as more of a 'movie news' site for potential projects and release dates and such. Alex can review a film anyway he want, its his opinion, if you want to go criticise a critic go on rotten tomatoes.
  • Anonymous
     shes naked almost every scene...? shitty or not thats all i need to hear to see this movie
  • Anon
    After you said you loved Battle LA i dont really trust any of your opinions heh
  • Jericho
     one last time Arranged Prostitution...THE MOVIE!!!!!!!!!
    • Jericho
      or a porno with better dialogue  
  • Bltzie
     haha yeah, this is going to be fun!
  • Hey Alex, what other movies would you compare this one to? Somewhere maybe? So you really disliked everything about this one?
  • Arif
     2 our of 
  • Alien
    This baby (Emily Browning)is a future "Katja Kassin",i want to see her in Hustler tv soon,zack snyder enjoyed from her so much in Sucker Punch movie! good job Mr Snyder!
  • Mikey
    What kept this film from being a 0? 
    • Jericho
  • Edgar
    Emily Browning reminds me Katja Kassin alot! i love them both! i hope they both meet Rocco Siffredi one day!
    • waldo
      yeaaaaaaaaaaaaa butt secks 
  • Job
    I know this is a 'geek culture' site and everything and I don't know anything about you as a writer but step back for a second and think about how pathetic and your review of this movie is.  "This art house movie is boring but the girl takes her clothes off."  You're no better than a dumb frat guy.  Or are you?
    • T_lynn4
      I think you missed the point.
    • Senator John Blutarsky
      Sure, when you say it like that it sounds bad...
  • CisforCinema
    It's sort of awesome to hear you complain like this Alex!
  • Yikes! This movie must of really irked the living fuck out of you to be giving this such a beat down! But all that matters to me is Emily Browning + naked = me unzipping like a muthafucka! 😛
  • Seems like the fanboys are out in full force.
  • Anonymous
    This review is not half as bad as many of the comments here. Ick. Mention nudity, and it's all "Hurrr hurrrrr she's naked! Porn!". Er, no. In all likelihood this film will be disturbing and not titillating in any way. Emily has an enigmatic presence, and Sucker Punch was awesome. I still hope this film isn't quite as bad as Alex says.
  • Lebowski
    This film is NOT disturbing, and is HUGELY titillating. It is titillating in exactly the same way as Sucker Punch was (sailor moon schoolgirls running around in the non existent skirts). And yes, Emily Browning has an "enigmatic" presence in these films. The enigmatic presence of a girl who looks 16 years old and performs with all the joie de vie of a sulky teenager. Just because a film is preoccupied with sexuality doesn't give it legitimacy as anything other than trash. And this film is trash. In fact, it is basically Sodeberg's The Girlfriend Experience, but with a little girl instead of a porn star. In conclusion, I am Australian, and this piece of shit shames our country and our rich film making culture.
  • David
    she is a young Katja Kassin! she is soooooooooo hot!
  • Cody
     I don't think I've ever read such a bad review by Alex.  Normally, he just skips it altogether, but if he actually comes out and says a movie is THIS bad, I'd actually have to see if it rates lower than a Uwe Boll movie for myself.
    • Jericho
      he had such high expectations it was just his rant of being so disappointed 
  • Alfredo
    This is how I felt about that movie Elephant when I first watched it. If I don't like a movie, I usually just shrug it off, but Elephant irked me so much that I just had to go to every possible website to complain about how much I hated those drawn out, pretentious scenes. 
  • Anonymous
    Lebowski -  I'm not defending this film. I haven't seen it. Merely pointing out that consensus varies. E.g.
  • Iva Grdic
    Funny how your critique, which is aimed at the absence of plot motivation and the film's own "sense-production" (which is silly - the sense of the work of art - be it book or a film - depends entirely on the subject's faculties), itself doesn't offer an insight as to why you found Emily Browning's nudity the least bit incentive to watch it.
  • Jonesabigail17
    I just read an interview with Emily Browning in sept/oct edition of Wonderland. I found it rather disturbing as she described her own character as "totally willing to lose control," and the actions of these old men "devestatingly sad and beautiful, just wanting some company and something young to make them feel alive" Ahhh bless them. I don't have to watch this film to see it is a fantasy of itself, with no wider historical or social contexts, and no message except that maybe we should be more sympathetic to wealthy, dirty old men. There seems to be a theme of sex slavery and disassociation running through Browning's work lately that personally, I find it all a bit creepy.  
  • Jmcta14
    how has anyone even watched it? it is completely unavailable anywhere?
  • CanOfSalmon
    This sounds less like a film review and more like an angry child throwing a tantrum because he did not get any ice cream for dessert.  
  • Sarah
    Alright, I confess, I'm an art and communications student. But from that perspective, I found the film beautiful. It's supposed to be frustrating, and raw. You're supposed to hate the men that use her as much as you pity them. It's supposed to be surreal and disturbing, and you're supposed to be horrified at the apathy with which Lucy watches her life fall apart. Yes, there's very little music. In fact, there's barely any speech. Life doesn't have music, after all. The disturbing juxtaposition between these fantastic and horrifying events and the extreme realism which the understated sound and the static camera angles provide lend the whole film a thoroughly skin-crawling feel, because you know that something like this truly could happen. (I could almost term this a horror film for deep people.) Don't go in expecting to leave this movie feeling good, or satisfied, or like any of the characters are better off in the end. But do go in expecting to feel. This is very much a nihilistic art film - but it's a damn good one.
    • Barry_napiere
      I think you're just trying to sound intellectual. Movies are made to entertain, inform, and make people understand after all. This film failed in all of that. Its broken in all of the parts that should have mattered.
      • Nicole
        I think I agree with you, Sarah. Barry if you think she sounds intellectual that is hardly an insult. Movies are not only made to entertain! (Shocking I know) And in it's own way it does inform, it offers a glimps into a life, it inspires horror. If you don't like movies that require thought or that awful intellect you hate so much go see the dozens of movies like Thor and Captain America made to entertain the masses and offer simple ideas that make one feel wholesome inside.
  • Robert
    Poor Emily, throwing away her time on such a movie, sad to see a nice looking lady being licked on the face by an old man as she lays naked and drugged upon a bed. I was hoping to see her advancing her film career in more respectable movie.
  • Ramona Coroiu
    This film is really a humiliating failure !!!! Should it be seen? Noooooo :)
  • Flashgirl
    The reviews is so passionate about his hatred for this IS GOOD. It obviously affected him or he wouldn't have watched it til the end - it's stupid that he won't admit he wanted to see what happens at the end.
    • Socialcrusader
      I don't think this is true... I watched it until the end (and wanted to even though I was absolutely hating it) because my friend and I were laughing at it all the way up until that feral face-lick scene where after that we were just compelled to get it over with. There was quite a bit of fast-forwarding too through the 10 min staring scenes!. Doesn't mean it was good. I watched it all of the way through BECAUSE I hated it so much. I wouldn't be able to dislike it so much if I hadn't seen all of it. 
  • Flashgirl
    I mean..."the reviewer is so" .....
  • Socialcrusader
    Dude!I saw this movie yesterday and I feel exactly like you. It is the worst movie I've ever seen and I've seen a lot!! I hated it so much, I went trawling for reviews and interviews to find out how this schlock got funded. There are so many gifted and talented writers in Australia but I guess when you know Jane Campion, that will do!  ARGH!




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