DRAMA SLEEPING BEAUTY (18) 101min ●●●●●
You could easily mistake Sleeping Beauty for a piece of male wish fulfilment. Australian novelist Julia Leigh’s first film as a writer and director may purport to be a feminist re-interpretation of traditional fairytale elements but the submissive, scantily-clad female flesh and perverse desires of elderly gentlemen clients place it closer to the soft porn of Tinto Brass than the social satire of a Luis Buñuel. Leigh’s debut arrives with the endorsement of Jane
Campion and does reveal an exacting, bracingly dispassionate aesthetic. Leigh attempts to spellbind us with long takes and lingering silences but there is a fine line between the hypnotic and the tedious, between a journey into the mysteries of human sexuality and merely preposterous provocation. Emily Browning (Sucker Punch, The Uninvited) stars as Lucy – a sullen, blank-faced young woman who seems to be sleepwalking through life. She is hired by Clara (Rachael Blake) as a ‘silver service waitress’ required to meet the precise requirements of guests whilst wearing luxurious lingerie, and lipstick that colour co-ordinates with the tones of her labia. Her willingness to please and not ask questions leads Lucy to be hired for the sleeping chamber. She is now paid to be drugged and allow a succession of elderly gents to visit her with carte blanche to do anything they desire short of ‘penetration’. The audience is made voyeuristic witness to events of which Lucy has no knowledge.
Sleeping Beauty sustains a certain fascination but is often
clumsy, pretentious and far from convincing. Lucy remains an enigma, and the attempts to capture a wider sense of her life are among the film’s weakest elements. Leigh’s film is crafted with controlled precision but still leaves you wondering exactly what she was trying to say. (Allan Hunter) ■ Selected release from Fri 14 Oct.
DRAMA ALBATROSS (15) 89min ●●●●●
HORROR/MYSTERY/DRAMA RED, WHITE & BLUE (18) 103min ●●●●● THRILLER/DRAMA THE DEBT (15) 113min ●●●●●
This British coming-of-age comedy drama from debut director Niall MacCormick retreads familiar ground with its story but, thanks to a very funny script and a combustible lead performance from newcomer Jessica Brown Findlay, it’s never dull. Findlay, previously seen in TV’s Downton Abbey, radiates firecracker charm and attitude as Emelia, a seemingly untethered 17-year-old with a fiercely independent spirit who shakes up the lives of the Fischer family when she starts working at the seaside hotel they own and live in.
While Emelia’s carefree attitude provokes studious oldest daughter Beth (Felicity Jones) to explore life and infuriates Beth’s frustrated former actress mother (Julia Ormond), it’s the lone man of the family, Beth’s father and one-time successful novelist Jonathan (Sebastian Koch), who is most affected by Emelia’s arrival. MacCormick balances the tone well, playing up the comedy while sustaining well-drawn characters and building to a conclusion that refreshingly suggests a new beginning is always possible, no matter the circumstance. (Paul Gallagher) ■ Selected release from Fri 14 Oct.
64 THE LIST 22 Sep–20 Oct 2011
Erica (Amanda Fuller) is not a good girl. She’s promiscuous but dispassionate, nihilistic but emotionless. The girl’s clearly got some issues. The only person who manages to make any kind of non- sexual connection is weirdy beardy Nate (Noah Taylor, remarkable). When Erica goes missing, Nate attempts to find her, but his search soon turns gruesome. With its elliptical editing, mumbled dialogue and very bleak, adult agenda, Simon Rumley’s Austin, Texas-set film is a markedly different proposition than the normal vengeance horror. British director Rumley is certainly a talent to watch and his unique, queasy talents were already evident in his previous feature The Living and the Dead, which took the anxiety and disappointments of dealing with organised health care and twisted it into a terror-filled satire on class. Red, White & Blue is a very serious attempt to strip away the cliché that surrounds horror/thriller staples – like the black widow female and avenging angel – to create a different dialogue. It’s not pleasant or easy to watch but Red, White & Blue is grimly progressive. (Paul Dale) ■ Selected release from Fri 30 Sep.
The Debt has languished on the distributor’s shelf for a year betraying a lack of confidence in the commercial prospects for John Madden’s sober- minded remake of 2007 Israeli espionage thriller Ha- Hov. The Debt takes place in two time periods; in 1997, Mossad agent Rachel (Helen Mirren) is attending the launch of a book about her exploits when her ex- husband, Stefan (Tom Wilkinson), brings news of the death of fellow agent David (Ciarán Hinds). The trio had been responsible to the elimination of Nazi war criminal Vogel (Jesper Christensen). Several lengthy flashbacks to 1966 depict this, with The Tree of Life’s Jessica Chastain, Marton Csokas and Avatar’s Sam Worthington playing the youthful versions of the assassination squad.
A decent entry in the current vogue for spy films, The Debt is substantially more taut than Madden’s previous thriller, the barely released Elmore Leonard adaptation Killshot. With attractively spare East German locations and consistent performances, The Debt just about pays off without saying anything particularly significant. (Eddie Harrison) ■ General release from Fri 30 Sep.