Sleeping Beauty (2011)



Creepy erotic drama about sedated girls has little meaning.
  • Review Date: December 2, 2011
  • Rated: NR
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 2011
  • Running Time: 101 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

If this movie about an aimless college student who gets paid to take drugs that put her to sleep while old men caress her can be said to have a message, it's that you shouldn't sleep through life -- be awake, be aware, and make choices that steer you in the direction you want, rather than letting others set your course.

Positive role models

Lucy is sleepwalking through her life, unsure what to do with herself, and drifts into a weird job where she takes a strong sedative that puts her to sleep for hours while men pay to fondle her nude body. She's unaware of what goes on while she's asleep and doesn't seem to care much about where her life is going.


One scene features an old man aggressively manhandling a nude, sedated young woman. Though he doesn't actually strike her, his domineering demeanor suggests that he's quite excited to be in complete control.


Sexual themes pervade the film. Extensive nudity, with both men and women seen completely naked. Lucy takes a job in which she wears lingerie while serving meals at private dinner parties, surrounded by other women who are wearing much less. Later, she agrees to take a drug that puts her to sleep for hours so that older men can fondle her limp, undressed body. Though there are plenty of discussions about sex and a few graphic conversations, very little actually happens onscreen. Still, it's clear what's going on, and most of the movie focuses on sexuality.


Some swearing, including "f--k," "bitch," "whore," "c--k," and "a--hole."


Some consumer products are visible, including Lexus cars and Mac computers. The clients in the film are all old, wealthy men who seem accustomed to being able to buy whatever they want.

Drinking, drugs, & smoking

A key part of the film is Lucy's willingness to take a drug that leaves her completely sedated for hours so that old men can indulge their fantasies. She's also willing, often eager, to partake in casual drug use, including cocaine. A few scenes feature people drinking wine and brandy at dinner parties, as well as stronger drinks at bars or while socializing with friends.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this creepy erotic drama is heavy on nudity but short on meaning. A college student becomes involved in an unusual type of escort service: She's paid to take a drug that puts her to sleep for hours while wealthy old men fondle her nude body (though they're prohibited from actually having sex with her). Besides the sleeping potion, there's also recreational drug use and drinking, plus a fair bit of swearing (including "f--k," "c--k," and more). The film is charged throughout with sexuality -- including full-frontal nude scenes featuring both men and women -- but no actual on-screen simulated sex.

What's the story?

Lucy (Emily Browning) is a cash-strapped college student who takes a job in which she serves meals at private dinner parties while dressed in lingerie. She soon becomes a quasi-prostitute, with a twist: She takes a strong drug that puts her to sleep for hours while wealthy old men are allowed to fondle her nude body (they're prohibited from actually having sex). Clara (Rachael Blake), the madam who arranges Lucy's encounters and administers the sleeping potion, tells her that "no penetration" is the most important rule. Soon Lucy begins to wonder what's really happening to her while she's asleep.

Is it any good?


Screenwriter and first-time director Julia Leigh is clearly going for an art-house experience in SLEEPING BEAUTY. Lucy seems to be sleepwalking through her life, taking a series of dead-end jobs (an office drone, a waitress, a volunteer for campus medical experiments) but not actually living. Searching for sensation, she's game for casual drug use and no-strings-attached sex, but otherwise it's hard to tell anything about this blank slate of a character.

The film is trying to make a statement about choosing to live life vs. choosing to check out and just go through the motions. Problem is, the message is pretty obvious, while the film is tedious and dull. It's got plenty of nudity and disturbing sex scenes (Lucy lies still, inert, while others fondle her). And by making Lucy so passive, both awake and asleep, there's nothing that makes her interesting to viewers. Will she discover the joy in life? Will she actually become involved in a real relationship? We don't know, and, because of the lack of storytelling, we don't much care.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about how Sleeping Beauty portrays sex and sexuality. Is it treated as a product/commodity? What are the dangers of that perspective? Parents, talk to your teens about your own values regarding sex and relationships.

  • By focusing on characters who literally sleep through significant encounters, what is this movie trying to say about life?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:December 2, 2011
DVD release date:April 10, 2012
Cast:Emily Browning, Ewen Leslie, Rachael Blake
Director:Julia Leigh
Studio:IFC Entertainment
Run time:101 minutes
MPAA rating:NR

This review of Sleeping Beauty (2011) was written by

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  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Kid, 10 years old June 9, 2012

My Mother said it was..............

My mother said it was ridiculous, she said there was way to much sex and it was a total waste of her time and money!!! >:(
What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Adult Written byAli Raza April 4, 2012

useless for all

whole movie is the waste of time , ,
What other families should know
Great messages
Too much sex
Parent Written bySkellboy March 24, 2012

The page review does not do the film justice.

I think this review in particular has missed the point of the film entirely. It isn't just pure titillation and the one-central plot point of Lucy becoming a Sleeping Beauty. While the themes are sexually based, the message is more focused on the objectification of women and how Lucy is so completely unencumbered by her own encounters outside of the job. If you look at it from her point of view, she lives a lifestyle already detrimental to her well-being, and she has no understanding of what goes on when she falls asleep, all she knows is that she gets paid. This isn't even completely about the men in the film. While there are perverted pigs like the second gentleman we see with Lucy in her sleeping state, we see softer men, like the first who has a soliloquy based on "The thirtieth year". His performance alone puts Lucy's job into question for the viewer. Some men are doing this for their own personal, deeper reasons. However, the themes do extend to dark areas such as Lucy's indifference to her sexual partner, having her decision made for her by the flip of a coin, and her debilitating drug use. It's all about context. In any other film, yes, the atmosphere and mood conveyed through the themes would mean condemnation and brandings of pornography or titillation, however there is just, something, about this film, and the obvious depth yet subtle lack of personality to Lucy's character which creates a juxtaposition. The viewer never knows what Lucy is thinking, and her motives remain unclear for the length of the film. However, 2 stars is simply wrong for this movie. If you think it's boring, go and watch an action film. This is art, clear and unrestricted, and to brand or even review it as anything else is ignorant.
What other families should know
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking


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