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Sleeping Beauty

January 11th, 2019   |   Updated on June 14th, 2023

A haunting portrait of Lucy, a young university student drawn into a mysterious hidden world of unspoken desires.

Lucy is a university student who is working a number of jobs. She volunteers at a research lab, works at a coffee shop, and as a photocopy clerk in an office. She responds to an advertisement and embarks on an erotic freelance job in which she is required to sleep in bed alongside paying customers.

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Movie Reviews: “Sleeping Beauty

Movie Review: Entertainment Weekly

In novelist-turned-filmmaker Julia Leigh’s arty exploitation pic passed off as a feminist parable, Emily Browning plays Lucy, a university student who, for good money, lets old men enact erotic fantasies on her naked body while she submits to drug-induced unconsciousness. Her clients may have her body; at least they can’t have her waking thoughts.

But Leigh doesn’t have much use for Lucy’s mind either: We never know what Lucy thinks about her odd job, or what she’d rather be doing. In 2011, Browning played a fetishized chick in Zack Snyder’s overheated fantasy Sucker Punch. What does she think about her own odd jobs?

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Movie Review: Newsday

A fascinating, erotically charged mystery, “Sleeping Beauty” vibrates with sexual symbolism in every frame but contains very little sex — at least, not the usual kind. The directorial debut of Australian novelist Julia Leigh, it’s a singular, stylish film that’s sure to polarize viewers by intentionally promising more than it delivers.

It opens with Lucy (Emily Browning, “Sucker Punch”) stifling her gag reflex as she swallows a plastic tube into her stomach. It appears to be clinical guinea-pig work, one of many odd jobs, along with waitressing and file-clerking, that Lucy takes to pay for college. Lucy is also a prostitute, or perhaps just allows herself to be treated like one by pushy men in pricey bars.

Constantly short of cash, Lucy answers a want ad that leads her to a splendid mansion in the woods where a queenly matriarch, Clara (Rachael Blake), offers the oddest job yet: Lucy will be drugged into unconsciousness, stripped naked and placed in an enormous bed for elderly men to do with what they will. Clara’s customers obey one rule: no penetration.

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Movie Review: Gay City News

With “Sleeping Beauty,” Australian novelist Julia Leigh turns to the medium of cinema and makes an unabashed artsploitation film. While full of both male and female nudity, Leigh’s film contains no sex. The nudity is largely unerotic, although heterosexual spectators may disagree. The men who get naked are all elderly. While the topless female prostitutes and waitresses are all conventionally attractive, their nudity is so common and so casual that one quickly gets used to it. “Sleeping Beauty” uses the highly charged subject of sex to speak about more personal issues, like its heroine’s general passivity.

Lucy (Emily Browning) is a young college student who doesn’t get along with her roommates. She works several menial jobs to support her studies. One day she sees an ad in the student newspaper for a waitress position. Not realizing how odd the job will turn out to be, she responds to it and discovers she will have to serve elderly men gourmet meals while topless. The job is simply a gateway into the world of prostitution, and Lucy eventually works as a “sleeping beauty.” Given a drug that knocks her out for eight hours, men are allowed to play with her body while she’s unconscious, but penetration is forbidden.

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