sat 22/06/2024

Sleeping Beauty/ Footloose | reviews, news & interviews

Sleeping Beauty/ Footloose

Sleeping Beauty/ Footloose

A haunting modern fairy tale, and a heartwarming Hollywood one

Punishingly transgressive: Emily Browning (centre) plays a student whose sex life functions like bulimia

We first see Lucy (Emily Browning) as a receptacle, letting a medical tube snake painfully deep down her throat. Australian novelist Julia Leigh characterises such behaviour as “radical passivity”, and her Jane Campion-mentored debut as director makes Lucy find its degrading limit.

Browning made her name as a juvenile lead in Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events (2004), going the familiar route to adult stardom as a scantily clad assassin in Zack Snyder’s Sucker Punch. Often nude here but rarely erotic, she plays a student whose sex life functions like bulimia, giving control through self-destruction. Aggressively objectifying herself, she returns men’s crude come-ons with interest, offering intercourse on the toss of a coin. Beginning as a pert, pliant blank slate, Browning lets her ready smile slip, revealing rage and despair.  

Soon Lucy is working as a semi-nude waitress to the rich old clients of sadly ruthless madam Clara (Rachael Blake). She then becomes a highly paid “Sleeping Beauty”, regularly visiting a secluded mansion to be drugged into utter unconsciousness. Her comfortably resting body (pictured right) is as helpless as if it’s been bound and gagged, and left accessible to three charmless “princes”: a lonely widower comforted by young flesh to lie beside, an impotent sadist who stubs his cigarette on her and snarls abuse, and a clumsy fat man who drops her. “There’s no shame here,” goes Clara’s lullaby. It’s gruelling viewing as you wonder how far things will go with that brake off. As Lucy sleeps on and the camera flatly films, it’s like watching atrocities under anaesthetic. This modern fairy tale is Bluebeard as much as Sleeping Beauty, as powerful men do what they wish behind the secret door Lucy’s curiosity has led her through. Having let herself drop deep into dangerous currents, waking here makes her howl for air.

Dialogue and action is often alienatingly stilted, other times happily natural. “You’re such a dick-breath,” Lucy snaps to the bloke kicking her out of her flat-share. “Nice,” he retorts, and suddenly we’re back in everyday Australia.

Sleeping Beauty’s litany of humiliations feels as punishingly transgressive as Leigh eagerly hopes. But it haunts because it’s believable. Leigh never strays off the scale of human desire. The bedroom becomes a stage where she records sex’s sadness. Her film’s experimental chill is warmed by the brave actors.

Watch the trailer to Sleeping Beauty

Craig Brewer’s remake of 1984’s Footloose is, of course, a softer, feel-good film, in which a big city kid (Kenny Wormald in Kevin Bacon’s old role) shakes up a Tennessee town where the local reverend (Dennis Quaid) has banned rock’n’roll. At heart it’s a Hollywood fairy tale in which some kids put on a show in a barn the way Judy Garland and Mickey Rooney used to. But it feels as truthful as Leigh’s film, because the small-town characters are raucously credible. It’s also an exuberant musical haunted by a fatal car crash, like some old Phil Spector hit, pausing to note that “Death’s on its own clock”, so you might as well dance. The dumb Eighties theme song is, for those of us who were dumb Eighties teenagers, terrifyingly nostalgic.

Watch the trailer to Footloose


Aggressively objectifying herself, she returns men’s crude come-ons with interest, offering intercourse on the toss of a coin


Editor Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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You're saying Footloose, a remake of another film feels as truthful as an original film directed by a first time director? I'd say you don't have very good taste if you compare a piece of remade trash to an original piece of work.

Why does hollywood have to mess with something good? Sure, the new Footloose could be good, but the orginal is a classic. It like trying to make a remake of Titanic.

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