Considering that the lead character is near naked for almost half the film, it’s remarkable just how unprovocative Julia Leigh’s debut Sleeping Beauty feels.
The story of a young university student, Lucy (Browning), who after applying for an elite silver service position, is dragged deeper and deeper into her boss’ (Blake) mysterious high-end services. Starting out as a lingerie-clad waitress, after Lucy needs to meet the payments of a new flat, she takes more work and moves into a new role, offering customers the chance for a few hours alone with a real life sleeping beauty.
There’s no surprise writer/director Julia Leigh’s wonderful script made the 2008 Black List, basing what is more than enough of a plot around an original and exciting concept with great potential to explore and create, but Leigh seems to have switched off when she got her hands on the camera.
While production values are of a high standard and the action throughout fairly superb, Sleeping Beauty is nowhere near as edgy or risqué as it could, and really should, have been. Though you’ll struggle to find a film hit cinemas all year with more outright nudity, nothing on show is provocative or even particularly sexy. Largely girls walking around in open-front lingerie, a deathly tone kills the mood as at times the film becomes nothing more than a long line of exposed flesh.
The direction fails to emote any of the ideas or concepts in the script. There’s no tone, no sense of escalation, no real style; it feels strangely bland, and the colour palette is vastly explored, giving off a restrictively cold aesthetic. Sleeping Beauty feels forceful, not explorative, and devoid of real imagination and creativity in its translation to the silver screen.
Emily Browning’s performance is wonderfully captivating but her job never really feels like it descends into the implied levels of chaos, while the talking points and closing ‘sleeping beauty’ idea are never really explored.
Penning the film as well as directing, there’s no doubt Julia Leigh has great potential, but she needs to refine her craft behind the camera to bring out the great ideas in her scripts. Sleeping Beauty lacks style and charisma, and for that she should take a note from Richard Ayoade’s Submarine.