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Love Lies Bleeding

Directed by Rose Glass
Produced by Andrea Cornwell and Oliver Kassman
Written by Rose Glass and Weronika Tofilska
With: Kristen Stewart, Katy O'Brian, Anna Baryshnikov, Dave Franco, Jena Malone, Eldon Jones, and Ed Harris
Cinematography: Ben Fordesman
Editing: Mark Towns
Music: Clint Mansell
Runtime: 104 min
Release Date: 08 March 2024
Aspect Ratio: 2.39 : 1
Color: Color

Bound meets Wild At Heart by way of Pumping Iron in Rose Glass' follow-up to her 2019 psychological horror debut, Saint Maud. This pulpy, romantic thriller, which dips its toe into both erotica and surrealism, stars an exquisitely sullen and sweaty Kristen Stewart as Lou, the manager of a gym owned by her estranged father (a sinister Ed Harris in one hell of a skullcap and wig). When a young, cash-strapped bodybuilder named Jackie (martial artist Katy O'Brian in a star-making turn) passes through town on her way to a competition in Las Vegas, Lou is smitten. The attraction is mutual, though Lou can't be sure if Jackie's feelings are the real deal or if she just needs a place to crash and someone to fuck. Both women are desperate to escape their circumstances, and while the high-stakes adventure they embark on isn't what you'd call well-planned or surefooted, their connection offers far more honesty and consistency than anything they've had before.

This small-town neo-noir is set in 1989 because this type of story works so much better in the era that birthed the best examples of the genre. The isolation and desperation that so often motivates characters in these types of stories just feels more immediate in an era without cell phones and the internet. It was a time when even the worst laid plans felt doable, provided the characters had enough grit and determination. Love Lies Bleeding is reminiscent of many delightfully grubby crime thrillers of the '80s and early '90s without feeling derivative of them. Part of this fresh spin stems from both leads embodying the tropes of the femme fatale and the person in love with the femme fatale—I'd say they're each equal parts Lana Turner and John Garfield, except that they're both also Linda Fiorentino.

This is a movie that takes big swings, which I admire, even though not all of them hit their target. Or maybe the aim here is simply to be memorably outrageous and audaciously transgressive in a "what the hell did I just see" kind of way. If that's the case, mission accomplished. However, I would have found the film more successful and satisfying if Glass had devised a way to be this original and irreverent while staying within the genre parameters of a neo-noir film from 1989. But really don't I don't think she made this picture with a middle-aged straight guy like me as its primary audience, and why the fuck should she?

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Rose Glass's 2nd feature blends body horror and bodybuilding in this sexy, sweaty, small-town neo-noir in which the 2 leads are each equal parts Lana Turner and John Garfield, except that they're both also Linda Fiorentino.