Cannes Film Festival: Emily Browning not so 'innocent' -- and NSFW

Emily-Browning-Cannes

Image Credit: Vincent Kessler/Reuters/Landov

Vulnerable, yes. Innocent …?

Emily Browning says that’s not the case, though her doe-eyes and delicate features may suggest otherwise.

The star of the Cannes Film Festival’s disturbing erotic drama Sleeping Beauty features her as a young woman who willingly enters a high-class prostitution ring, where she submits to the assorted men with shocking passivity by slumbering nude through the encounters.

Though it has received mixed reviews, Sleeping Beauty has been one of the annual film gathering’s most provocative titles — for obvious reasons. “I just don’t have a problem with naked human bodies,” the 22-year-old Australian says.

Browning made her breakthrough in 2004′s Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events, and bad things keep happening to her characters. She most recently starred as Baby Doll, the warrior in a schoolgirl uniform in Zack Snyder’s Sucker Punch, playing another hyper-sexualized young woman in captivity. Sleeping Beauty is not only more of an art film, it’s also much more scandalous, as the poster for the movie suggests (click through for the full version.)

“The character Lucy, I think of her as sort of quietly and willfully reckless,” writer-director Julia Leigh told reporters. “If she is submissive, it’s actually a radical form of submission in agreeing to do these things. If the world is going to function in a way of using or exploiting people in all sorts of ways, maybe her perverse provocation is ‘My cheek is turned. Try me.’”

Entertainment Weekly film critic Lisa Schwarzbaum describes the “radical passivity” of Browning, and the “scenes of wrinkled old man flesh and flawless young girl flesh.” The actress says she got through those uncomfortable moments much the way the character does — by trying to tune it out — though she wasn’t physically anesthetized like Lucy.

“I didn’t become as disturbed during those scenes in the sleeping chamber as you might imagine. I taught myself to mediate through those scenes. I wasn’t present in those scenes at all, so they really didn’t have as much effect on me as I thought they might have,” Browning said at the film’s festival press conference.

Even in this picture from the red-carpet premiere at Cannes’ Grande Theatre Lumiere, it looks like the men behind the cameras are leering at her, but Browning says she’s actually the opposite of an exhibitionist. “In my everyday life, I’m a little bit nervous and not particularly brave so I feel if I can be completely brave in my work then I’m doing something right,” she says. “That’s the one area I can give myself over to it.”

And she doesn’t see her character as damsel in distress, despite the fairy-tale alluding title. “In terms of innocence, the contradiction maybe comes because I physically look – I suppose – kind of innocent,” Browning says. “But she’s very aware. I don’t see her as a victim in any way.”

If anything, she sees her as her own antagonist. “There is something perverse about her willingness to let the forces around her control her life,” Browning says. “In the beginning of the film, she chooses what man to go home with by flipping a coin. I see her in a way as a nihilist. She’s just letting things happen to her. She’s willingly putting herself in danger.”

For more film news, follow Anthony Breznican on Twitter: @Breznican.

Comments (18 total) Add your comment
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  • andree

    the photographers are leering at her; her dress was sheer w/ skimpy underwear and the flash made it worse.
    i saw photos on life magazine site.

    • half baked

      Who cares if she is naked at the premiere? She is naked through most of the movie. There is nothing wrong with nudity. And FYI the photographers always look like that even when taking pictures of fully dressed men. You are just being a prude and imagining leers.

  • boom

    a wacko waiting to happen

    • Kayjee

      Emily Browning is a young actress who has very innocent/baby-doll like features. She could have chosen to have a very bland career by using her looks to constantly play the ‘damsel in distress’ roles that hollywood seems to thrive on – i.e. Bella in ‘Twilight’ which she was in consideration to play. Instead, she is using her appearance to pick roles which are unusual in the way they turn an innocent appearance into a character’s way of manipulating men. I’d take Emily Browning’s unique roles over Kristen Stewart’s blah career any day!

  • Kaelyn

    Its a Jane Campion movie, why am I not surpised? Disturbing, depressing, and aggressively in your face sexuality is her m.o.

    • Jebby

      It’s not a Jane Campion movie, you idiot. Did you even read the article. It’s by Julia Leigh.

      • Javabookut

        First of all is it necessary to call someone an idiot. Second, Jane Campion is Julie Leigh’s mentor. Though it was mentioned in Lisa’s article not this one. Maybe the commenter above read that first.

      • Solamente Dave

        Plus, click through to the full poster. At the top it has “Jane Campion Presents” – pretty close to being her movie.

    • gray

      but it’s not as though Jane Campion has nothing to do with it.

  • half baked

    They should rename the movie “the power of passivity”. The movie has no real plot. It goes from scene to scene with no connection. You never learn anything about Lucy, no character development. She is just a zombie. There is no real reason for her to sign up as a prostitute. It’s a pretentious art movie for the sake of art.

    • koalialoalo

      well that’s certainly open for interpretation – some people may claim that the movie makes you think and draw your own conclusions much like what we do in analyzing literature

      i haven’t seen the movie so i have no comment about whether it’s a worthwhile movie to watch or not

    • J

      What’s wrong with art for the sake of art? What better reason for art than the for the sake of it?

  • matt haning

    I am a huge fan of Browning and can’t wait to see the film. someone please let me know when any release dates for the film become available to go see it at a public theater or to buy on DVD or Blu ray. The movie sounds really dark and very realistic. I cant wait to see the film. The story doesnt sound to far off from what most pretty collage aged girls are forced into for money. the world is a tough place to make a buck these days. Two thumbs high for emily browning. I bet the story will make people think…..

    • Chris

      Wow……really? Really?!! Make people think? So, according to your comment here, you have no problem with really young women whoring themselves out just to make some money? Because that’s how it sounds to me. I sure as hell hope you never have kids, because what if YOUR daughter was put through that? Bet anything you wouldn’t be such a fan of a movie like this then.

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