Julia Leigh’s Sleeping Beauty 2011

Emily Browning sleeping Beauty
Lucy, the Sleeping Beauty, drugged and awaiting a male customer

Advised by October’s  UK Elle Magazine, I watched Julia Leigh’s Sleeping Beauty, starring Emily Browning and Rachel Blake.

What I found particularly captivating about this film is it’s ability to haunt and disturb. Emily Browning plays Lucy, a young, evidently promiscuous girl, struggling to pay her rent and working a number of jobs to make ends meet. She stumbles upon a job in the papers, working as an Escort.  This is then preceded by the first of many sexual and particularly unnerving scenes. I won’t reveal too much about the scenes, as I am guessing there are many still yet to watch this film. But it’s tone sits somewhere in between Stanley Kubrick‘s Eyes Wide Shut, with Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman and Steven Shainberg‘s The Secretary starring Maggie Gyllenhaal and James Spader.

What’s magnificent about this film, is its ability to push boundaries. It pushes our own personal boundaries and our boundaries as a collective society. I personally think that the old men in this film that desire to lay in bed next to Lucy, a young woman who has consented to being drugged so that men can manipulate her body, are disgusting and I’m pretty sure that society would agree. However, regardless of  how dangerous many of the situations Lucy puts herself in and regardless of how hypocritical this may be, there are definitely  moments that I found her to be empowering as a woman. And these are my own personal boundaries.

I found Julia Leigh’s portrayal of this young girl unbelievably authentic and acute. Lucy is shockingly a very prominent type of young girl that I believe exists in today’s society.  She’s numbed to the dangers of sex, the unkown, vulnerability, and consequently, unashamedly self confident – to the point it’s almost scary. We hear a lot about women with body issues  and we see how damaging such issues can be combined with low self esteem and low confidence levels. Is Lucy the extreme oposite? Powerful,confident and not afraid to put herself out there because she’s beautiful? She uses her body and her beauty as currency, but not because she has to. Her character throughout the film reveals that she is inclined to this behaviour. She appears to enjoy promiscuity, however, it is debatable that she hasn’t even considered herself as promiscuous. Which then leaves me to conclude, that she merely enjoys the powers of her beauty.

Whether this film celebrates or demeans feminism, I’ll leave that for you to decide.


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