Tag Archives: Emily Browning

Sleeping Beauty

24 Dec

Title: Sleeping Beauty
Year: 2011
Director: Julia Leigh
Writer: Julia Leigh
Starring: Emily Browning, Rachael Blake, Ewen Leslie, Michael Dorman, Mirrah Foulkes, Henry Nixon
MPAA Rating: Not rated
Runtime: 104 min
IMDb Rating: 5 .4
Rotten Tomatoes: 51%
Metacritic: 58

The streak of five great films I had watched in a row (The Artist, My Week with Marilyn, A Dangerous Method, Rampart and Shame) ends with Sleeping Beauty. Not to say this is a bad film, because it’s not, but it’s certainly not great. It is something of an ambitious debut from writer-direcotr Julia Leigh (it comes with the endorsement of Jane Campion, who’s great) a film that takes its own take on the Sleeping Beauty myth. And it’s an interpretation that couldn’t be more different than the Disney version we all know and love; instead it focusses on Lucy, a young university student who engages in many odd jobs in order to fund her studies, an incredibly passive girl, and as such the perfect candidate for a really strange kind of profession, one that will require her to be sedated, thus being in total submission for hey paying customers; effectively becoming a sleeping beauty.

Like I said, this is a pretty weird topic to tackle in your first try as a director. And Ms. Leigh certainly shows quite a bit of confidence in her approach to the erotically-charged story she’s telling, observing her characters and striking this very artsy kind of tonality to the whole film as we get to see what happens when Lucy starts becoming frustrated by the effects her new profession is having on her daily life and decides to find out what goes on when she’s asleep. The film then turns into a pretty damn enigmatic experience, not to mention that just how dreamy it all feels as we observe along with Ms. Leigh what happens to Lucy’s body lends this sort of detachment to the whole experience, which can be quite unnerving in a good way.

The thing is that, as surehanded as the approach by the first-time director may be, and well-done as many of the film’s aspects may be, the film still kind of leaves more than a few questions unanswered, and that makes it just seriously difficult to understand, and leaves it feeling kind of like a really well-done film, but one that ultimately also feels kind of pointless. Yet, it’s still quite fascinating to see this new take on a classic story unfold, in which the woman is no princess but just a lonely girl, in which the sleep is voluntary and for one night and not a hundred years, in which the men that come to see her sleeping are certainly no princes.

It’s kind of weird how Sleeping Beauty works, how it presents Lucy to us, a girl who’s just passing through life in a very passive kind of manner, getting low-wage jobs and a few sexual encounters in between them to fill in the shift. Then answering an ad to work as a lingerie waitress, serving gourmet foods to rich men, and then getting a promotion to that job that will have her knocked out for eight hours, at the mercy of men who can do anything to her so long as there’s no vaginal penetration or visible bruises. But the thing is that, as dutiful as Emily Browning is in the role (which was originally supposed to go to Mia Wasikowska, who left it in order to do the incredible Jane Eyre, which I gave an A to), she’s just an unconscious girl being trampled by males. In that sense, Ms. Leigh doesn’t really provide Lucy with a lot of motivation, making her a one-dimensional character who’s just an object to men, and not much more.

That was my biggest problem with this film, and normally a film with such a distanced character that has no real life story to her wouldn’t do it for me, but Ms. Leigh’s distanced and cold approach is there for a reason, so it kind of works out in the end, though it’s obviously not a huge success because you can’t really connect to Lucy. But still, the sheer basic premise is just really strong and can certainly survive whatever missteps the film takes, and it’s compelling to see how the director’s view of this world makes a film in which the protagonist spends much of the film naked turn out to be so sexless, the eroticism behind it all not really being palpable. That and the performance by Ms. Browning in which she seems like she doesn’t care about her life and what people do to her make Sleeping Beauty just a really interesting piece of filmmaking to watch unravel.

Julia Leigh certainly tried to make a film about some kind of empowerment, and it’s certainly a really ballsy debut. I just wished that she wasn’t such a guarded director, she just holds too many of her cards close to her vest, and the film, much like Lucy, feels untouchable. It’s a good film, for sure, not great because I couldn’t actually get into it, but worth a watch, and those moments in which we do get to see the many emotions Lucy is harboring underneath do feel much more affecting because of how dispassionate everything we had seen before them was, I just thought there weren’t enough of those emotionally vulnerable moments in this film. Still, this is a really unique take on the classic story, no princes and no happily ever afters involved.

Grade: B

Sucker Punch

27 Apr

Title: Sucker Punch
Year:
2011
Director:
Zack Snyder
Writers: Zack Snyder and Steve Shibuya, based on a story by Zack Snyder
Starring:
Emily Browning, Abbie Cornish, Jena Malone, Vanessa Hudgens, Jamie Chung, Carla Gugino, Oscar Isaac, Jon Hamm
MPAA Rating:
PG-13, thematic material involving sexuality, violence and combat sequences, and for language
Runtime:
110 min
Major Awards:

IMDb Rating:
6.6
Rotten Tomatoes:
22%

Zack Snyder is one of the most polarizing directors in the business. People seem to either hate or love his movies, and the man has certainly made his name a brand in the way that people will know what to expect from him, and they will buy a ticket to the movies based on his name alone being on the marquee.  However, doing just that is a double-edged sword because, yeah, if your movie’s awesome then you’ll get all the credit because your particular vision was the reason it was such a masterpiece, but then once you release something that doesn’t please your audience, you’ll be the first person to be thrown under the bus. Just look at M. Night Shyamalan for further proof.

Let’s just rewind and take a look at the guy’s filmography. He came out in 2004 with a remake of George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead, which was really really good, though not as amazing as the originaly obviously, but still, it was a debut that showed this was a guy with a vision and flare, and with a worldwide gross of over $100 million on a $28 million budget the guy was quickly booked as the director of a very ambitious project that was close to his heart.

That project of course was 2007’s 300, the film that got Mr. Snyder and his stylized action introduced to audiences worldwide. And no matter what critics say about 300, I think it’s a pretty universal fact that audiences loved it, and it has over $450 million in worldwide receipts to show for it, and I thought it was a stunning adaptation of Frank Miller’s epic graphic novel and  one of the most visually arresting films I have seen.

Which of course got me all giddy inside when it was announced that the next project Mr. Snyder would be tackling was to be the adaptation of my favorite graphic novel, Alan Moore and David Gibbon’s Watchmen. I was excited because I thought that Watchmen just couldn’t be successfully translated to the screen, but I thought that if anyone would be able to pull it off it would definitely be Mr. Snyder, armed with a $130 million budget.

And so Watchmen came out, and it really divided critics and fanboys alike. I won’t really delve on why the division came, and how much credit there is to the claims effected by both sides. I’ll only say that I personally thought the film was pretty stunning, it wasn’t the perfect Watchmen adaptation, because I think there really can be no perfect Watchmen adaptation, but trust me when I say that what we got courtesy of Mr. Snyder is the best one we’ll ever get, it’s one insanely ambitious R-rated superhero film that has it’s uneven bits, that’s for sure, but also has quite a few moments of sheer magnificence, and when you watch the director’s cut that’s nearly a half hour longer that only becomes more evident.

And then, to conclude our revision of Mr. Snyder’s filmography, we must talk about last year’s Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole, his first foray into animation. And it was a very mature piece of animation, feeling every bit as epic as his past films, and carrying his usual trademark visuals. There were many things that were off with the movie, but it was still very entertaining to see Mr. Snyder in charge of a PG-rated film.

And now he gives us Sucker Punch, a movie he directed, co-wrote and also co-produced with his wife. A film that’s being thrashed by critics and audiences alike, and being called the worst in his canon by a mile. Now, it may be the worst film he’s done, may be, but I actually thought Sucker Punch had its merits.

The first one of which is the fact that this is Mr. Snyder’s first live-action film not to carry an R-rating, and it’s also the first one he’s done that wasn’t based on an already existing property, but instead one he wrote based on a story of his own. So at least it’s him tackling new territory, and I do concede that the characters and the plot in Sucker Punch are quite flat and dull, but I mean, when there’s so much havoc going on around them, and when said havoc is presented in such a visually orgasmic way you really can actually look the other way and focus on the visual insanity of it all.

And I guess that’s really not saying much. I mean, a film that’s visually stunning but that once it has a character open her mouth feels kind of dumb really isn’t worth all that much, but it’s really not as though this one ever pretended it was going to be much more than that. I mean, just look at the posters or the trailers, there’s no indication that this one was going to be more than a group of scantily-clad females with huge guns just raising hell on everyone, Mr. Snyder himself stepping up to describe it as “Alice in Wonderland with machine guns”.

People are talking about the morality of the film, it’s representation of women and a whole lot of other stuff that I personally think is way beyond the point. This film is ridiculous any way you look at it, and if you want to point that out and then immediately proceed to discuss its gender representation then you’re way off target. This is just Mr. Snyder being both brilliant and idiotic, he had a huge amount of themes and ideas he wanted to mesh together, and he did so into an over-stylized action fest with hot chicks, and I actually think that it he had only subtracted one theme or one idea the result would have been far more enjoyable.

Don’t get me wrong, I won’t give this film a rating on the A-range, I will probably grade it somewhere along the lines of Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole, which would indeed make the lesser film he’s done so far to me. But I just want to recognize what’s good about this film, instead of only focusing on how it’s crazy hyperactive and how it represents what’s wrong with film-going audiences nowadays.

I want to acknowledge Mr. Snyder, and how he’s one of the very few working directors who are willing to embed a very distinctive auteur vision into a commercial film, this is the subversive film aimed to just do its own thing no matter what audiences or critics were expecting, and even though it didn’t work as a film all that much, it kind of worked as that.

I don’t know how much I should talk about the plot. We have Emily Browning as Baby Doll who was framed by her evil stepdad for the death of her sister and then checked into a very strange mental hospital with a hot shrink and even hotter inmates that also have handy codenames like Sweat Pea, Blondie and Rocket. And after that is when the movie gets seriously crazy, and as I said its craziness is both it’s main asset and also what does this movie in so I really won’t spoil any of the fun for you here, just rest assured that the craziness includes a small appearance by Jon Hamm himself.

The plot’s meaningless though, Sucker Punch really is just a film about hot chicks with tiny clothes and huge guns in worlds made up in geek-heaven with weirdly cool and ridiculous names in which they get to fight both robots and dragons. Even typing that felt ridiculous and cool at the same time.

There is little substance to these characters, that much is true, but who cares really, this film is still executed to technical perfection and the scenes are awesome and everything looks genius. And if you really want to talk about gender representation like so many apparently do, I’ll only say one thing, the girls here are both seen as exploitation material and as super empowering feminists, so even in that regard this film makes no sense. And I’m more than okay with that.

Grade: B