At the end of the year, you would normally see the award-winner-wannabes released in the cinema so that they will remain close enough in the memory of the voters' minds to score a mark come award ceremony time...
Cinema from the far East - Australia and New Zealand - has always been far-reaching and challenging (Once Were Warriors, Whale Rider, Mad Max) and it would seem that things aren't about to change at all. Except for releasing the film earlier than is the norm, but then again, Sleeping Beauty is anything but normal.
The premise of Leigh's film is a simple one that has has been a well trodden path throughout cinemas history - a young girls' awakening to sexual desire through a series of events. Most films will try to exploit the sexual desire and/or tension connected with the subject matter - so much so that the genre of "coming-of-age" movie was born and has since been saturated - that the marketing campaign would put it amongst the likes of American Pie and similar. However, this is no US teen-titillation movie.
From the outset, all is very much along the lines of methodical and clinical rather than seedy and sexy. The opening salvo sees the "heroine" make her way through college tuition by undergoing quite simply gag-reflexing experiments involving tubes inserted down the throat. This gives her money towards making the nights fly by, littered with older men out for sexual encounters but not enough for her best friend "land lord" and her money-grabbing boyfriends rent demands.
It's from this point the storyline that will divide audiences rears its, quite frankly, ugly head... Some will class it as arthouse whilst others will view it as an excuse for soft porn bordering on female degradation. Browning, last seen as victim-cum-warrior Baby Doll in Sucker Punch, ends up as a drugged fetish plaything for the wealthy to do with as they please but who must abide by the one rule - no penetration. What may sound erotic in words, is definitely not when in practise. Despite their back stories and their meandering speeches, the rich men are thinly written, vile characters whilst the women in the "service" are merely props with the odd bitchy remark.
What pushes the viewer away is the feel that all that is being done upon the screen is to have it considered as indie and arthouse. Lots of stunted conversations, glances into the distance, characters with no explanation as to their connection with Brownings drifting student, or plot progression lazily tumble over each other in sequences where, literally, nothing happens for ages. It's almost is if the definition of what's cool has tried to be explained to someone who doesn't get it but has tried to emulate it anyway. Neither engaging or erotic.
UK release date: 14.10.11