Sunday, April 29, 2012

97. SLEEPING BEAUTY (2011)

A spirit of disconnection infuses Julia Leigh's SLEEPING BEAUTY, an original script about Lucy (Emily Browning), a young woman working her way through college with a variety of odd jobs -- waitressing, office worker, and occasional prostitution -- yet still arrears in her rent, when she is approached to work for an elite and peculiar form of escort service. Driven to a magnificent isolated country estate, as in a scene from THE STORY OF O, she is auditioned and touched up in her underthings by Clara (Rachael Blake), the elegant middle-aged woman in charge, who offers her no inkling of the job she is being hired to do, only the promise that it will not involve penetration.

"Your vagina is a temple," she is assured.

"My vagina's no temple," Lucy replies.

Seen at school waving passive hellos to fellow students who never quite intrude into her life, and involved in a curiously ritualized friendship with an ill, possibly gay male (Ewen Leslie) that might well also be a professional arrangement, the diminutive Lucy is first hired to act as a bustier-garters-and-heels wine server at a private banquet where all the other servers wear less; they are older, taller and fleshier than she, who looks faerie-like by comparison. With a couple of these evenings successfully behind her, Lucy is then offered a more exclusive position as a "Sleeping Beauty," to be drugged and made available to Claire's wealthy clientele as a comatose companion for a full evening. What they do remains absolutely their secret, a fact that gradually burns a hole in Lucy's trust until she simply has to know for what purposes her body is being used. Claire refuses to tell her, reasoning that it could expose her clients to blackmail, so Lucy secretes a mini-cam in her sleeping chamber.

This set-up of this peculiar Australian film prepares the viewer for a pay-off along the lines of George Sluizer's THE VANISHING (SPOORLOOS, 1988), but rather than leave those evenings elliptical until a viewing of the mini-cam recordings yields some terrifying revelation, we're privy to all the encounters as they happen, while she's unconscious, and it's the mildest of these encounters that Lucy records... and from which she awakens, far more shattered than the unphased viewer. Though SLEEPING BEAUTY offers a fascinating protagonist well played, though it's curious enough to be watchable, and erotic enough in places to entice us on, it ultimately sort of... lies there.  

Viewed on Netflix. 

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