Movie Review: “Love Lies Bleeding”

   Kristen Stewart is an actor who can sometimes sway me on a film if I know she is in it. I know that anyone who was around during the height of the Twilight franchise may still hold a lot of pent up resentment toward her and that franchise, and, uh, I dunno, man, I think you have to let it go. I still find comments bolstering the tired claim that she doesn’t smile or show outward emotion, and I think it tells me that those people haven’t watched anything she has done in the last ten years. Robert Pattinson was great in The Batman, and, likewise, Kristen Stewart is a capable, talented actor. I will concede – Hollywood hasn’t been particularly nice to her over the years. She is a very subdued, understated performer, which only makes it even more of a thinker why anyone thought she would be a good fit for a more action heavy version of Snow White, but I digress.

   I liked her in Camp X-Ray, I liked her in Clouds of Sils Maria, and I liked her in Happiest Season, which goes to show that she did eventually find her niche in mainstream cinema.

   For that reason, I decided to watch Love Lies Bleeding. That, and because sometimes I like to prove to myself that I am capable of watching and reviewing a film that doesn’t have both its feet squarely in the horror genre (this film only has maybe a few toes in the black waters of the macabre). I didn’t know what this film was about before I watched it. I didn’t know who directed it. I didn’t even know the name of a second actor. I was as blind to this film as I could possibly be.

   Now that I can come up again for air, I know Love Lies Bleeding is a neo-noir romantic thriller directed by Rose Glass from a screenplay she co-wrote with Weronika Tofilska. I wasn’t familiar with this director, but I now know I definitely look forward to watching her freshman film Saint Maud when I have the opportunity to. The film has received very positive reviews from critics, and seemed to be at least a modest success at the box office (provided that they kept the budget in check – as of now, it is unreported, but I can’t imagine it being too much). 

   The opening scene is Kristen Stewart’s character trying to pry free a particularly clogged toilet. Evident by her shirt with the words ‘staff’ on it, I can infer that she works for the gym and isn’t just rifling through other peoples’ shit for love of the sport. This is a particularly clogged toilet for a gym, at least, by my assessment. I could understand a gas station toilet, but who leaves a gym in such a shoddy state of disarray? “You’d be surprised!” is what I am assuming a very small, but vocal niche of my readership is saying right now. These readers being ones who have worked at a gym and have also found themselves elbows’ deep in someone’s fecal matter. Michelle Rodriguez once did an interview about the Fast & the Furious movies, saying something about having to huff protein powered farts all the time on set, maybe there is a connection there. A couple of scenes later, we see our other leading lady Katy O’Brian being given the business by Dave Franco’s character, presumably in exchange for a job opportunity (so, in this moment, Dave Franco is actually more like James Franco than himself). 

   Long story short, Kristen Stewart plays a reclusive gym manager named Lou, who not only manages to manage a gym, but also manages to not be fired in spite of treating all of its patrons horribly. Meanwhile, O’Brian’s character Jackie is a hitchhiker who struggles to make ends meet, but doesn’t struggle to have six-pack abs. The woman is a brick shit-house bodybuilder who hopes to win this competition. Lou, being a lesbian with working eyes, is quickly smitten. Lou shebangs Jackie, and is nice enough to make her breakfast afterward (this is also after giving her steroids that she apparently has a surplus of). As we learn more about the gotten characters, we discover that Lou’s father is the leader of this drug-smuggling ring, which also has a front at a shooting range. Jackie works there, having gotten a job after sleeping with Dave Franco’s character, who, coincidentally, is Lou’s brother-in-law, married to Lou’s sister (played by Jena Malone). Lou’s father is played by Ed Harris, and can best be described as an unhinged, ruthless gangster type. 

   As it turns out, Love Lies Bleeding is a pretty steamy film. It is a lot more outward and explicit with its lesbian scenes than what you would otherwise see in a mainstream film. I am not complaining, of course. I have never really called a film ‘sexy’ on The ‘Bib, but I imagine there are more than a handful of scenes that will fit the bill for you in that way. Then again, I would also preface by saying it will depend on your reaction to close-ups zooms on some very vein-y, vein-y arms. This part of the film is pretty fun. Kristen Stewart can play the down beaten, tired-of-this-shit character in her sleep, and O’Brian has a lot of likable, kinetic energy.

   Something else this film has on its mind is much darker, however. It is a very angry film, narrowing in on that emotion (anger), as well as obsession. When it goes dark, it is like flipping a switch. It switches from a romantic thriller to a dark horror with shades of black comedy mixed in. I would be remiss if I dared to peel back the onion a layer too far for you with this film. I will say that it is a film that feels vaguely familiar in some respects, offering a pulpy black-comedy with shades of David Lynch, and it was a real wild and surrealist ride. 

   I would recommend Love Lies Bleeding as a fun, surrealist kind of film. Ironically, the only aspect I am a little on the fence about is, in fact, some of the surrealist elements that remind me of David Lynch. I am absolutely onboard when filmmakers want to go weird with their film, so long as I think it serves a real purpose and benefits the film. Some of the surrealism incorporated toward the end of the film felt less purposeful and more like the filmmakers didn’t have a satisfying resolution for the story and went toward surrealism as a crutch instead. It’s fun, for certain, but I do wish it would have wrapped up more definitively and more coherently. It’s a solid film and a decent feather in the cap of everyone involved. 

Rating: – 3.0 out of 5.0