Tuesday, December 20, 2011

At the Movies with Bebb...Part Four

Well, it's Wednesday and you know what that means- Movie Review day here at Bebb and the Bubs. And also...tomorrow is my last day of work before summer holidays! Very exciting yet I'm also feeling a little sad at leaving this school tomorrow and starting over at a new school yet again. There are some kids I've gotten to know really well, and friends I've made among the staff (particularly Lisa) who I'll miss. Ah well- onto new adventures! I know I'll keep in touch with Lisa and make new friends at my new school.

So today I am reviewing another Australian movie...

Lucy (Emily Browning) is a university student. She works three thankless jobs- as a test subject in a medical research lab, as a waitress, and in an office- to support herself. Lucy appears cut off from the world around her, completely disconnected from her housemates and engaging in meaningless liaisons with men she meets in bars. Her only real connection is the one she shares with her friend Birdmann (Ewan Leslie), an alcoholic who does not leave his flat. Their relationship is both intimate and strangely formal, and it is only with Birdmann that we see any vulnerability from beautiful, distant Lucy. Answering an ad in the student paper to work as a lingerie waitress, Lucy soon finds herself working for Clara (Rachael Blake) who runs a mysterious establishment in which young women are willingly put into a drugged sleep so that older men can spend the night with them- to look and touch only. As time passes, Lucy begins to grow increasingly curious as to what happens to her in the lost hours while she sleeps...

I wanted to love this movie. I really thought I would. The previews showed an ethereal, atmospheric arthouse movie, and I was excited to see author Julia Leigh's directorial debut. (She wrote, among other things, The Hunter, upon which the recent movie was based.) I had also noted that Julia Leigh had been mentored by Jane Campion, who directed one of my all time favourite movies, The Piano. 

But. Yes, but. I found the movie to be vastly disappointing. Though Emily Browning's acting was impressive, we had no chance to get to know Lucy on any real level as she was so detached and distant. I feel this was a deliberate effort to show her as being disconnected from the world around her and reckless in the risks she took, but instead it made us feel like we were only watching her from the outside with no view into her motives, feelings or thoughts, which was very unsatisfying. The times when we did see emotion and vulnerability from Lucy- during her scenes with Birdmann and in the final scene- were powerful moments when I did feel connected to her, and I was left wanting to feel the same way during the rest of the movie.  

This was quite an uncomfortable film to watch. Seeing Lucy, naked, unconscious and completely vulnerable, being handled by older men who seemed to have no regard for her wellbeing or safety made for difficult viewing. Dialogue that seemed intended to shock had the effect of distancing me further from the film. The script was well-written, but I question the desire to show humankind in its basest, vilest, most lust-driven form, and the decision to leave the audience so cut off from every single character. Another issue is that in such a controversial film, there were many scenes that I actually found quite dull. I debated whether to stop watching on several occasions, not because I was disturbed but because I was, quite simply, bored.

Visually, the film was beautifully shot and lit. Emily Browning looked breathtakingly stunning but her tiny, waifish frame made the scenes with the older men all the more uncomfortable. The film left me with many, many more questions than it answered and while this is all well and good and I do enjoy discussing the meaning behind movies with others, this movie went too far in leaving us with too much we did not know, understand or hope to understand. Overall the acting was good, and I had respect for Emily Browning's brave performance in particular, but this is not a movie I could say I enjoyed. I was left feeling churned up inside, uncomfortable, sad and confused. Certain scenes were with me that night as I tried to sleep, and were not scenes that I particularly wanted to revisit. Disappointing viewing and not a film I would recommend unless you really just need to satisfy your curiosity.  

My rating: If my rating was based only on the acting, I would give it 4 out of 5 stars. However, overall I give it 2 out of 5 stars. It has potential, but does not deliver.  

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