By Travis Clemmons
SPEEPING BEAUTY is most certainly a motion picture that SHOULD NOT be viewed by anyone under the age of 18.
When we’re children, most of us have an insatiable curiosity about the world we inhabit. We try to experience everything we find. We touch. We taste and sniff. We run, jump and spin. We climb a massive tree, simply because it’s there. We resist going to sleep at night because there are still so many interesting things we haven’t had the chance to explore yet.
A part of growing up is learning to take a step back from this behavior. Hopefully, we don’t lose our curious nature entirely, life would become incredibly boring if we did. But we do have to slow the curiosity monster down a bit, bring it under control so that we can lead fruitful and productive lives.
SLEEPING BEAUTY is a 2011 Australian film which takes a look at what might happen if an individual’s curiosity hasn’t been tamed in any way. In Lucy’s life, the monster is always there and completely unchained. Curiosity has never been Lucy’s friend. The thing holds her hostage and constantly demands that she provide it with newer and more exciting forms of information.
Emily Browning portrays Lucy as a twenty something experience junkie. Attractive, intelligent and very talented at interacting with people. Yet she’s completely incapable of carrying on a long term friendship or romance. Lucy would sleep with a man or a woman simply because she felt the need to know what type of sex and bed partner they’d be. And once that experiment had been successfully completed, she’d probably move on to learning what would happen if she took this new form of drug some casual acquaintance had just told her about. When the local university is advertising for individuals to be involved in a fairly intense rotation of extensive medical testing, Lucy volunteers because she’s interested in finding out what will be done to the people who participate.
The girl constantly moves from job to job, often juggling two or three at the same time. They pay the bills and each new job is very interesting at first but all of them seem to get old in a fairly short period of time. It seems there’s never enough emotional stimulation in her life and this leaves her feeling contrary. While renting a room at a boarding house, Lucy seems determined to test how long she can stiff the landlord before he finally tosses her out. The girl has the money, she simply refuses to spend it on anything. She lights a fire and burns it instead.
Eventually, Lucy begins working for a very respected “Entertainment Coordinator”. The Madam offers Lucy the opportunity to begin as a well paid party hostess and gradually work her way up the from there. Lucy proves herself to be well mannered and enthusiastic and she quickly becomes very popular with the clients. Within just a few weeks of beginning the job, she’s offered one of the most high paying assignments the woman has in her portfolio.
Lucy can earn several thousand dollars in a single night by taking a drug that will put her to sleep for almost ten hours. During that time, someone will be allowed to enter the bedroom at the mansion and sleep next to her. Their contract with the Madam is that they aren’t allowed to penetrate Lucy sexually. Other than this, they can touch her … kiss her … slap her … do anything they want as long as it doesn’t kill Lucy or damage her body.
Considering the nature of Lucy’s personality, this assignment has the potential to be both a perfect fantasy and a complete nightmare. One the one hand, she’s very interested in the money and intrigued by the thought of being used like she’s nothing more than a life size plastic doll. On the other, while she’s comfortable with the idea that she’ll have no say as to who enters the room and plays with her body, she’s frustrated that she’ll never be allowed to learn who any of her users have been. The agency’s pledge to the client is that only the Madam will ever know his or her identity.
I’ve often said that the dividing line between Erotica and Pornography is very similar to the one between Epic Adventure and a Shoot Em Up Western. In Erotica and Epic Adventure, the action that exists is there to advance the plot and the character development. In Pornography, a Shoot Em Up or a Sword Fight Movie … the bare bones of a plot are there to present an excuse for the action to take place.
SLEEPING BEAUTY is a marvelous example of top notch Erotica. It’s an intriguing character study that takes a thoughtful look at a young woman’s personality and sexual nature. Lucy’s obsessive need to experience new and unusual forms of emotional stimulation (only some of them sexual) is most certainly the basic foundation of the plot. But where a sexploitation movie would quickly devolve into a series of excuses for showing the girl jumping from one tawdry encounter to another, SLEEPING BEAUTY constantly stays focused on the fact that Lucy exists in a world she’s incapable of properly relating to.
The fact that the young woman is a sexual freak doesn’t prevent the movie from portraying her as a person. This is what causes the story to be so interesting and enjoyable. I sincerely look forward to seeing more from Writer / Director Julia Leigh.
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