Sunday, May 19, 2024

Pulp Friction

Loves Lies Bleeding (Rose Glass, 2024)

As enjoyable as Rose Glass's directorial debut was, Saint Maud (2019) was a smart psychological thriller/horror, but way too depressing to revisit again anytime soon. Her latest film, Love Lies Bleeding (2024), is a lesbian neo noir drawing from various celebrated sources from genre cinema. It also happens to be a far more palatable effort defying the sophormore curse.

Despite its heavy material and themes, Love Lies Bleeding has a darkly comic sense of humour woven within its tapestry. Despite its explicit sexual scenes, it exudes an archaic and simplistic pulp novel vibe which is welcomingly refreshing in modern cinema's convoluted and bloviated story telling. Whilst artistically surreal at times, Love Lies Bleeding is a welcome throwback to the neo-noir thrillers from eighties. Ultimately making this a surprising draw for me this year.

Set in a town in New Mexico, during the late 1980s, Love Lies Bleeding centres around the relationship between gym worker Lou (the piranha-jawed Kirsten Stewart) and body-building drifter Jackie (Katy O'Brian). Lou's circle consists of  her battered housewife sister Beth (Jenna Malone), her repugnantly abusive brother-in-law J.J. (Dave Franco) and her estranged, gun smuggling father Lou Sr. (Ed Harris) The nomadic Jackie appears to have no real ties, until later in the story, and is primarily driven by her obsessive desire to enter a body-building competion in Las Vegas. There's also the annoying Daisy, a young woman romantically pursuing Lou, who plays a more pivotal part as the story progresses.

Stylistially speaking, Love Lies Bleeding is mostly shot with a high contrast venee. It's a tried and tested effort harkening to the neon lit eighties. Simulteonously, it's an integral visual component in modern cinema thanks to throwback thrillers like Drive (2011) and Revenge (2017). If that's not enough, baby blue and hot pink are evidently worn in the film, whilst awful retro hair styles are in hilariously abundant. Pick of the bunch is Ed Harris with side hair extentions, reminding me of Matt Lucas's Andy Pipkin from Little Britain (2003 - 2006).

Glass utilises some choice cuts on the film's soundtrack which really compliment Clint Mansell's original score. A firm favourite is Nona Hendryx's Transformtion. An apt song when considering Jackie's arc in the film. 

The film's surreal Attack of the 50 Foot Woman style finale didn't bother me unlike some folk. Having already been familiar with Glass's prior film, Saint Maud, a WTF? style ending was likely to be on the cards. For what it's worth, the film does place various clues regarding Jackie's sense of reality. Sort of come to expect it with the obvious takes on The Incredible Hulk throughout the film. By comparison, it makes way more sense than Ari Astor's tediously over long, surreal odyssey Beau Is Afraid (2023), relying heavily on its wackiness to maintain interest. The problem with this process, by being so overutilised in a three hour film, it becomes boring. Back to this film review - a more relevant, but minor criticism for Glass's effort is sometimes it loses focus on its supporting characters. Its splicing of gritty thriller with transformative body horror works surprisingly well, but the expository dumps near the third act, make the script feel a little rushed and rough around the edges.

Overall, this was a surprisingly entertaining film and one that made me yearn for more small desert town thrillers in this vein. Glass is two for two for me.


Kelvin Mack10zie said...

Ed Harris with the sickest Dungeon Master hairdo since Dungeon Master himself.

Spartan said...

According to the film’s trivia page on IMDb, the long side hair was originally meant as a joke, but Glass ended up really liking it.

Kelvin Mack10zie said...

Did he have any prosthetic shit in his face or is he really that craggy now?

Spartan said...

Don't really know, I just assumed he got real old.