Sleeping Beauty (2011 film)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Sleeping Beauty
Sleeping Beauty film.jpg
Theatrical poster
Directed by Julia Leigh
Produced by
  • Jessica Brentnall
  • Timothy White
  • Sasha Burrows
  • Jamie Hilton
Screenplay by Julia Leigh
Music by Ben Frost
Cinematography Geoffrey Simpson
Edited by Nick Meyers
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release date
  • 12 May 2011 (2011-05-12) (Cannes Film Festival)
  • 23 June 2011 (2011-06-23) (Australia)
  • 2 December 2011 (2011-12-02) (United States)
Running time
102 minutes
Country Australia
Language English
Budget $3 million[1]
Box office
  • $36,578 (USA)[2]
  • $A300,888 (Australia)[3]

Sleeping Beauty is a 2011 Australian erotic drama film that was written and directed by Julia Leigh. It is her debut as a director.[4] The film stars Emily Browning as a young university student who begins doing erotic freelance work in which she is required to sleep in bed alongside paying customers. The film is based on influences that include her own dream experiences, and the novels The House of the Sleeping Beauties and Memories of My Melancholy Whores by Nobel laureates Yasunari Kawabata and Gabriel Garcia Marquez, respectively.[5][6]

The film premiered in May at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival as the first Competition entry to be screened. It was the first Australian film In Competition at Cannes since Moulin Rouge! (2001). Sleeping Beauty was released in Australia on 23 June 2011. It premiered in US cinemas on 2 December 2011 on limited release. Overall critical reception of the film has been mixed, rising to some approval through June 2016, after circulation of the film on the festival circuit; audience reception, on the other hand, has been weak (less than a third of a sample of tens of thousands approving).[7][8]


Lucy (Emily Browning) is a stoic, unemotional university student who has few friends and survives by working various short-term odd jobs. Her roommates dislike her, and she spends her time visiting Birdmann (Ewen Leslie), a male friend who is very attracted to her. While she does not return his sexual interest, Lucy enjoys Birdmann's company, and in his presence is the only time she is shown smiling or laughing. An old joke between the two is that Birdmann frequently asked Lucy to marry him; Lucy always says no.

In response to an ad for yet another short-term job, Lucy meets Clara (Rachael Blake), who runs a service in which attractive young women perform silver service while dressed in lingerie at a formal dinner party for male clients. Clara assures her that the men are not allowed to touch the women sexually, and Lucy agrees to try it. Clara inspects Lucy's body and names her "Sara" for the purpose of anonymity. At the dinner party, Lucy is the only girl dressed in white; the other women wear black lingerie that is much more revealing than Lucy's costume.

After one other session as a serving girl, Lucy gets a call from Clara's assistant Thomas (Eden Falk) for a different request. Lucy is driven to a country mansion, where Clara offers Lucy a new role wherein she will be voluntarily sedated and sleep naked while male clients lie beside her. They are permitted to caress and cuddle her, but penetration is not allowed. As Lucy lies unconscious, Clara leads in the man who hosted the first dinner party. After Clara reminds the man of the no-penetration rule, he strips and curls up beside Lucy.

After a few of these sessions, Lucy has enough money to move into a larger, more expensive apartment, where she lives alone. She receives a call from Birdmann, who has overdosed on painkillers. She goes to his house and finds him dying in his bed. Sobbing, she takes off her shirt and gets in bed with him, but he dies in her arms. At Birdmann's funeral, Lucy abruptly asks an old friend if he will marry her, in an echo of Birdmann's old playful banter. The friend, however, not understanding the reference, takes her seriously and, shocked, refuses her, citing a number of Lucy's personal problems as his reasons.

At her next assignment with Clara, Lucy asks if she can see what happens during the sessions while she is asleep. Clara refuses, saying it will put her clients at risk of blackmail. After being placed on the bed for the session, however, Lucy fights off the sleeping drugs long enough to hide a small camera in the room before returning to bed and succumbing to sleep. The client is once again the first man, but this time, he also drinks the tea with a much larger dose of the sleeping drug.

The following morning, Clara comes in and checks the man's pulse, showing no surprise when he cannot be awakened. She then tries to wake Lucy but is at first unable to do so, eventually having to use mouth-to-mouth resuscitation. Lucy awakes and, discovering that the naked man lying beside her is dead, begins to scream hysterically—the first emotion she has shown throughout the film.

The film ends with the scene captured by the hidden camera: the dead old man and the sleeping girl both lying peacefully together in bed.



Writer and director Julia Leigh, primarily a novelist, said in an interview with Filmmaker Magazine that she initially wrote the film without the intention of directing it.[5] In writing the script, Leigh drew from several literary inspirations, including Yasunari Kawabata's House of the Sleeping Beauties and Memories of My Melancholy Whores by Gabriel Garcia Marquez,[6] as well as the eponymous fairytales by Charles Perrault and The Brothers Grimm, and the biblical story of an old King David spending an evening alongside sleeping virgins.[5][13] She also noted the phenomenon of images of sleeping girls on the internet, presumably in somnophilia pornography.[5] Kawabata's novel had been adapted in 2006 by German director Vadim Glowna, as Das Haus der Schlafenden Schönen (House of the Sleeping Beauties), but had been released to generally negative reviews.[14][15]

The Sleeping Beauty script made the 2008 Black List of unproduced screenplays grabbing attention in Hollywood.[16] In September 2009 the project was approved for funding from Screen Australia.[4] In February 2010 it was announced that Emily Browning would play the lead role.[9] Mia Wasikowska was originally cast as Lucy but she dropped out when offered the title role in the adaption of Jane Eyre.[9][17]


Reception of the film has included mixed critical and audience reviews, with evolution in critical reception toward positive after its appearance in festival circulation. As of June 2016, Sleeping Beauty (2011) has received "mixed or average reviews" from the aggregate of 20 critics appearing at, with a mean score of 57 on a 100-point scale from these professional reviewers;[18] the aggregate audience score (user score), as of this date, at this site, reflected "mixed or average reviews" (<50 ratings).[8] As of the same date (June 2016), the film has failed to achieve a critical consensus at, where the 90 professional reviews to that date are evenly split between approval and disapproval ("fresh" and "rotten")—with scores of 5.2 and 5.5 on a 10-point scale for all and top critics, respectively (49 and 52% "likes," respectively); the aggregate audience score, as of this date, at this site, reflected disapproval of more than 2 in 3 viewers (32% likes, >65,000 ratings, scoring an average of 2.7 on a 5-point scale).[7]

The tension between approbation and disapprobation and the suggestion of eventual approval began with its initial 2011 Cannes Film Festival, its major festival release.[19] A trailer was released on the same day that the film was announced for the main Competition of that Cannes.[20] The film premiered at the festival on 12 May as the first Competition entry to be screened. An early-morning press preview drew a mixed response but the official red carpet evening premiere received a prolonged standing ovation.[21] All subsequent screenings at Cannes were packed and the film became one of the most talked about at the festival. Actor Jude Law, a Cannes jury member, stated in a press conference that Sleeping Beauty had just missed out on one of the major awards.[citation needed][22]

In a review from the festival, Peter Bradshaw of The Guardian called the film "Technically elegant with vehemence and control ... Emily Browning gives a fierce and powerful performance ... There is force and originality in Leigh's work".[23] David Rooney of The Hollywood Reporter called it "soporific in every sense", with the reservation: "Cannes audiences tend to be more forgiving in sections geared to emerging talent, like Un Certain Regard or Directors' Fortnight. Outside the glare of Competition, even this pretentious exercise might have earned some appreciation for its rigorously cold aesthetic".[24] Ian Buckwalter of NPR noted the film's "sexless and sterile" approach to its erotic material, saying, "This Sleeping Beauty is no fairy tale; it's stark, dispassionate and noticeably short on happily ever afters".[25]

Other reviewers have used various descriptive terms: "Titillates, terrifies and haunts in equal measure", said Sukhdev Sandhu in the UK's The Daily Telegraph.[26] Fionnuala Halligan in Screen International wrote "Browning has gone the distance for her director and together, they have delivered something here that sometimes catches your breath".[27] Salon reviewer Andrew O'Hehir found it "Gorgeous, opaque and disturbing".[28] James Rocchi in Indiewire was also a fan, saying: "This is, in many ways, the kind of film you only get at a major festival, a hothouse flower, beautiful and delicate and yet surprisingly hardy and potentially toxic".[29] On its US release, A. O. Scott in The New York Times found the film "seductive and unnerving in equal measure" while also observing that "the tone is quiet and the pacing serenely unhurried" and that "Sleeping Beauty is at times almost screamingly funny, a pointed, deadpan surrealist sex farce that Luis Buñuel might have admired".[30] Comparing Leigh's literary style to her film imagery, Ryan Gilbey of the British New Statesman noted that "the taut prose of the Australian novelist Julia Leigh (who wrote The Hunter and Disquiet) has been preserved in her first film, Sleeping Beauty. Leigh uses language parsimoniously on the page, with each word weighted for maximum tension or ambiguity, and she demonstrates the same approach to images." He concluded that Sleeping Beauty was "a convincing and original debut."[31]

Slant Magazine gave two reviews. For the 2011 Santa Fe Film Festival, Glenn Heath Jr. commented that "Julia Leigh's striking debut film, Sleeping Beauty, is a treasure trove of formal artistry and psychological abstraction."[32] Michael Nordine, while awarding Sleeping Beauty three stars out of four, noted that "Leigh's take on the [fairy tale] story is a study in detachment and unspoken dissatisfaction, traits that imbue the proceedings with a barely-contained sexual energy lurking beneath a thin veneer of calm" and that the film was "a mood piece whose primary goal is to immerse both protagonist and viewer in a strange environment and discover how all involved react."[33]

Critics who were less than impressed included James Berardinelli of ReelViews, who wrote "with an emotional temperature approaching absolute zero, Leigh finds it difficult to accomplish more than present a pastiche of artistic images signifying little."[34] Peter Debruge, of Variety, described the film as frustrating, "more tiresome than anything", and having "a distinctly first-draft feel".[35] Fiona Williams of SBS gave the film two stars out of five, arguing that "A character whose inner life is so affected by events about which she has no memory is inherently intriguing, but the early promise of Leigh's idea loses momentum quickly".[36]

Sleeping Beauty was a film festival fixture, showing in over 50 major festivals worldwide in 2011-2012.[citation needed] In addition to festival screenings, Sleeping Beauty was distributed commercially into 45 territories (over 65 countries).[37]

Popular response[edit]

As noted, reception of the film globally, by audiences, reflected disapproval of more than 2 in 3 viewers (32% likes, >65,000 ratings, scoring an average of 2.7 on a 5-point scale).[7] However, when Sleeping Beauty was first shown on the SBS World Movies pay TV channel in Australia, in September 2012, it was the highest-rated of the films of this site.[38][full citation needed] It subsequently became the highest-rated film ever shown on the World Movies channel.[39][full citation needed]

Response of filmakers[edit]

Director Dan Sallitt in Notebook analysed literary and film devices employed by the film in 2012, and recognised intentional elements of humour.[40][full citation needed]. In an article on director Ralph Pitre's blogspot, Adam Nayman follows Sallitt and compares the techniques used in Sleeping Beauty to those of James B.Harris in his 1973 Cannes film Some Call It Loving, referring in passing to the common influences of Kubrick, Buñuel and Haneke[41]

Awards and honours[edit]

Actor Jude Law, a Cannes jury member, stated in a press conference that Sleeping Beauty had just missed out on one of the major awards at the Cannes film festival at which it premiered.[citation needed] Julia Leigh won Best Director for Sleeping Beauty at the 2011 pt:estival-de-Cinema-de-Sitges received a Special Mention at the Stockholm International Film Festival 2011 for the film, for "…its ability to provoke and at the same time start an intellectual discussion about the things that it hurts to talk about" and in July 2012 won Best Director in a First Feature Film at the Durban International Film Festival.[42] In May 2012, on the anniversary of her Cannes debut, Julia Leigh received the top award of the Australian Directors' Guild, Best Direction in a Feature Film.[citation needed] The New Statesman awarded Julia Leigh a 2011 Cultural Capital Award for Best Newcomer Director.[43]

Emily Browning won best actress awards for her work in the film, at The Hamptons (USA) and Kiel (Germany).[citation needed]

Academic attention[edit]

Sleeping Beauty has attracted attention from students and faculty in academia. In Film Quarterly in 2011, Genevieve Yue compared the Catherine Breillat film The Sleeping Beauty to the Leigh film, in detail.[44][full citation needed] Emma Deleva, writing in Cahiers du Cinéma in 2011, discussed the controversy over the French R16 classification and the distributor's unsuccessful appeal against it.[45][full citation needed] In 2012, Lesley Chow, writing in Bright Lights Film Journal, discussed other literary aspects relevant to the film, including the symbolic use of sleep as a metaphor.[46][full citation needed] This line of argument was extended by Meredith Jones in 2014, in a paper in the International Journal of Cultural Studies, where Sleeping Beauty was argued to represent sleep as the "anti-matter to the neo-liberal imperative of Just Do It.".[47][full citation needed][48] In 2014, Kyra Clarke argued that Sleeping Beauty "highlights the importance of placing aside" conventional media expectations of girls, accepting, rather, "the challenge of confused and imperfect representations" enabling "recognition of the heteronormative constraints that structure society" (in a paper in Studies in Australian Cinema).[49] Kendra Reynolds concludes a paper in the Journal of International Women's Studies stating that "through her anti-tale Leigh provides the resuscitation needed to revive feminism from its premature bed in order to ensure that the real Sleeping Beauty, the true female identity, will not sleep forever.".[50] In a 2016 University of Montreal Masters thesis, Laurence Lejour-Perras, comparing Sleeping Beauty with Anatomy of Hell (Catherine Breillat 2004), Nuit#1 (Anne Émond 2011) and Klip (Maja Milos 2012) shows how these female directors deconstruct the female gender stereotypes of passivity and modesty, thus deliberately thwarting the spectator's erotic experience.[51]


  1. ^ "Sleeping Beauty (2011) – Box office / business". Retrieved 10 June 2016. 
  2. ^ "Sleeping Beauty (2011) (II) (2011)". Retrieved 10 June 2016. 
  3. ^ "Big Mamma's Boy posts decent opening at the Box Office". Retrieved 10 June 2016. 
  4. ^ a b "Latest feature films approved by Screen Australia". Screen Australia. 7 September 2009. Retrieved 14 April 2011. 
  5. ^ a b c d Macauly, Scott (30 November 2011). ""Sleeping Beauty" writer/director Julia Leigh". Filmmaker Magazine. Retrieved 5 April 2012. 
  6. ^ a b Lim, Dennis (15 June 2011). "ArtsBeat: Cannes Q. and A.: Julia Leigh on a Modern-Day 'Sleeping Beauty'" (NYT arts blogpost). The New York Times. Retrieved 10 June 2016. The Australian novelist-turned-director Julia Leigh traces the origins of her first feature, "Sleeping Beauty," to what she calls a bout of 'self-exposure.' The attention she received for her well-received first novel, 'The Hunter' (1999), led to a recurring nightmare about being watched in her sleep. 
  7. ^ a b c RottenTomatoes Staff (10 June 2016). "Sleeping Beauty [2 December 2011]". Retrieved 10 June 2016. 
  8. ^ a b Metacritic Staff (10 June 2016). "Sleeping Beauty [2 December 2011]". Retrieved 10 June 2016. 
  9. ^ a b c Bodey, Michael (3 February 2010). "Who's who in Tim Winton's Cloudstreet". The Australian. Retrieved 14 April 2011. AND Julia Leigh's Sleeping Beauty is inching through pre-production, having secured a lead actress to replace Mia Wasikowska, who is preparing to become an international name playing Alice in Tim Burton's imminent release, Alice In Wonderland. The Melbourne star of Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events, Emily Browning, will take the lead in the potentially controversial tale about a uni student who becomes a "sleeper" in a Sleeping Beauty chamber. Jessica Brentball, presently having an award-winning run with the short The Cat Piano, is producing the film. 
  10. ^ a b c d e Scott, A.O. (1 December 2011). "Objectification Is Also in the Eye of the Beheld [Sleeping Beauty, Directed by Julia Leigh, Drama, Romance, Not Rated, 1h 41m]" (film review). The New York Times. Retrieved 10 June 2016. With: Emily Browning (Lucy), Rachael Blake (Clara), Ewen Leslie (Birdmann), Peter Carroll (Man 1) and Chris Haywood (Man 2). 
  11. ^ Stratton, David (25 June 2011). "Sleeping Beauty's naked provocation is no fairytale" (film review). The Australian. Retrieved 10 June 2016. When Lucy apparently decides she needs to augment her income, she answers an ad and finds herself in a large, isolated house being interviewed by elegant Clara (Rachael Blake). Clara, it seems, runs an establishment that, though not exactly a brothel in the accepted sense, does bring together attractive young women and older men. 
  12. ^ a b Davis, Cindy (2011-04-17). "Date Rape for Pay: Sleeping Beauty Trailer" (movie review). Pajiba. Retrieved 10 June 2016. Sleeping Beauty also stars Michael Dorman (Daybreakers), Mirrah Foulkes (Animal Kingdom)… 
  13. ^ "Comment le cinéma a adapté, magnifié ou massacré les contes". 
  14. ^ "Das Haus der Schlafenden Schönen". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 23 July 2014. 
  15. ^ "Vadim Glowna's Laborious House of the Sleeping Beauties". Village Voice. Retrieved 23 July 2014. 
  16. ^ "The 2008 Black List – The Hottest Unproduced Screenplays of 2008"
  17. ^ Billington, Alex (9 February 2010). Emily Browning Replaces Mia Wasikowska in "Sleeping Beauty" Retrieved 5 April 2012.
  18. ^ Relative to this mean, the median score of 63.5 indicates the substantial number of high scores that are also a part of this aggregate. See the citation, op. cit.
  19. ^ "Horaires 2011" (PDF). (in French). Cannes Film Festival. Retrieved 12 May 2011. 
  20. ^ "Watch: Trailer For Cannes Entry Sleeping Beauty Starring Emily Browning". 14 April 2011. Retrieved 14 April 2011. 
  21. ^ Boos Turn to Cheers for Shy Malick. The Sydney Morning Herald. 24 June 2011.
  22. ^ Once Upon A Time, The Australian. 18 June 2011.
  23. ^ Bradshaw, Peter (12 May 2011). "Cannes 2011 review: Sleeping Beauty". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 12 May 2011. 
  24. ^ Rooney, David (11 May 2011). "Sleeping Beauty: Cannes Review". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 12 May 2011. 
  25. ^ Buckwalter, Ian (1 December 2011). "A 'Sleeping Beauy', And Dark Things In Her Slumber". NPR. Retrieved 5 April 2012. 
  26. ^ Sandu, Saukhdev (12 May 2011). "Cannes 2011: Sleeping Beauty, review". The Daily Telegraph. London. Retrieved 12 May 2011. 
  27. ^ Halligan, Fionnuala (12 May 2011). "Sleeping Beauty". Screen Daily. Retrieved 12 May 2011. 
  28. ^ O'Hehir, Andrew (12 May 2011). "Cannes: A creepy, erotic retelling of Sleeping Beauty". Retrieved 12 May 2011. 
  29. ^ Rocchi, James (11 May 2011). "Cannes Review: Sleeping Beauty Starring Emily Browning Seduces With The Pervading Power Of A Dream". Indiewire. Retrieved 12 May 2011. 
  30. ^ Scott A.O., Sleeping Beauty (2011). The New York Times, 1 December 2011
  31. ^ Ryan Gilbey. Sleeping Beauty(18). New Statesman 14 October 2011
  32. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 8 June 2012. Retrieved 7 January 2014. 
  33. ^ Michael Nordine (28 November 2011). "Sleeping Beauty". Slant Magazine. 
  34. ^ Berardinelli, James (2 November 2011). "Sleeping Beauty: Movie Review". Reelviews. Retrieved 26 December 2011. 
  35. ^ Debruge, Peter (5 November 2011). "Sleeping Beauty: Movie Review". Variety. Retrieved 26 December 2011. 
  36. ^ Williams, Fiona. "Sleeping Beauty (review)". SBS. Retrieved 14 February 2013. 
  37. ^ Bodey, M., Once Upon A Time. The Australian, 18 June 2011
  38. ^ Stephen Matchett. First Watch. The Weekend Australian, 12–13 January 2013. Review p18.[full citation needed]
  39. ^ Michael Bodey. Reel Time, The Australian. A Plus p15, 20 March 2013.[full citation needed]
  40. ^ Dan Sallitt, Notebook 16 January 2012. In Defense of Julia Leigh's Sleeping Beauty.[full citation needed]
  41. ^ Adam Nayman.Eyes Wide Shut: "Some Call It Loving" and "Sleeping Beauty" Order From Chaos. 22 June 2016., access date 22 June 2016
  42. ^ Going Places, 28 July 2012
  43. ^ Ryan Gilbey. New Statesman 27 December 2011
  44. ^ Genevieve Yue, Film Quarterly 65 Spring 2012 pp 33–37.[full citation needed]
  45. ^ Emma Deleva, Cahiers du Cinéma Décembre 2011 p 47.[full citation needed]
  46. ^ Lesley Chow, Bright Lights Film Journal, Issue 76 May 2012.[full citation needed]
  47. ^ Jones.M. Sleep,radical hospitality, and makeover's anti-matter. Int J Cultural Studies 16 January 2014.[full citation needed]
  48. ^ [1][dead link]
  49. ^ Clarke, Kyra (2014). "Surrendering expectations of the girl in Julia Leigh's Sleeping Beauty" (article, primary source). Studies in Australasian Cinema. 8 (1): 2–15. doi:10.1080/17503175.2014.905050. Retrieved 10 June 2016. I examine the expectations of girls produced in the media and society and the contradictions they entail, the vulnerability that Lucy's employment as a sleeping beauty represents, and the ways in which the character encourages viewers to rethink what constitutes passivity. I argue that Sleeping Beauty highlights the importance of placing aside such expectations and accepting the challenge of confused and imperfect representations. Indeed, surrendering such expectations enables recognition of the heteronormative constraints that structure society. 
  50. ^ Reynolds, Kendra (2014). "A Rude Awakening:Sleeping Beauty as a Metaphor for the Slumber of Post-Feminism" (essay, primary source). Journal of International Women's Studies. 16 (10): 34–46. Retrieved 10 June 2016. 
  51. ^ Lejour-Perras ,Laurence (2016) Sexualité et corporéité féminines dans le cinéma de réalisatrices contemporaines: une lecture féministe.Master's thesis . Department of Art History and Film Studies. University of Montreal

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]