(a film review by Mark R. Leeper)

CAPSULE: A college student who takes odd jobs finds herself working for an enterprise that (with their consent) drugs young women and allows men to live out their fantasies with them, with just a few rules to protect the young women. This is a strange film that gets into issues of the meaning of sex, of male fantasy, even of feminism. Sadly the viewer may be as unengaged and passive as the protagonist in the story. This is the first film either written or directed by Julia Leigh. The Australian production has very modest budget and no recognizable actors. Rating: high +1 (-4 to +4) or 6/10

"You will go to sleep: you will wake up. It will be as if those hours never existed." That is Lucy's job. Lucy allows herself to be drugged so that she will be unconscious for several hours. During that time she has no real need of her body so her employer can allow paying customers do whatever they want with her as long as there is no penetration and there are no marks left. Lucy's body must be left in a state as if she has been alone for the hours of her sleep. It is an interesting philosophical question. Would you rent out your body if it would suffer no ill effects from the time it is in someone else's possession?

But in a sense Lucy (Emily Browning) has already been renting out her body in ways sexual or non-sexual but more socially common. To make money she allows herself to be a lab specimen for medical research. She allows a probe--apparently a camera--to be dropped down her throat into her lung. At a local stylish bar she is willing to trade sex for cocaine. She has short-term jobs and shorter-term relationships with men. And the same group that later arranges the "Sleeping Beauty" sessions hires her first to serve at fancy meals wearing only lingerie. She is used to the concept of selling herself for the money that she much needs for rent and to help a boy friend who needs medical attention. In desperation she willingly takes a job at the milder end of prostitution and moves up to the "Sleeping Beauty" sessions.

Emily Browning plays Lucy maddeningly passive through most of the story but later more assertive. Early in the film she lets a coin toss determine with whom she will spend the night. She takes jobs she hates. She allows herself to be manipulated. Later in the film her experiences seem to focus her on what she really wants. She wants to go after a boyfriend that she could not commit to at some earlier time. There is only one man she seems to want to commit herself to and he may not be able to reciprocate.

Julia Leigh films with a simple and matter-of-fact style focusing on just one character and little to distract us. The only music in the main body of the film is picked up from the background. There is little camera movement. We see three men living out their fantasy, but insufficient time is spent to get to know any of them. Lucy holds the center of the film.

Is this film erotic? That will depend on the tastes of the viewer. (I did not find it so ... much.) Was it intended to be erotic? Writer-director Julia Leigh is not saying. I rate SLEEPING BEAUTY a high +1 on the -4 to +4 scale or 6/10. Not surprisingly, the film has a good deal of nudity of both genders. The film was released in December from IFC Selects.

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					Mark R. Leeper
					Copyright 2012 Mark R. Leeper