10 Apr 2024

Review: Love Lies Bleeding

From At The Movies, 7:00 pm on 10 April 2024

Love Lies Bleeding is a definite change of pace for Kristen Stewart after playing Princess Diana Princess in Spencer

Stewart has always had a strangely enigmatic presence ever since she burst on the scene in the Twilight series.

Is she the girl next door, an art-house darling, or the star frustrated by stardom – Princess Diana in Spencer.

In Love Lies Bleeding she plays Lou, a woman going nowhere, running a gym in a small town for her father, whom she hates.

No caption

Photo: Screenshot

She’s got an unattractive girlfriend called Daisy – how often do you see yellow teeth in an American movie? – and is trying to get out of that relationship too. Then one day she sees someone spectacular.

Her name is Jackie – played by the statuesque Katy O’Brien – and she’s training at the gym for the Body Building Champs in Las Vegas.

Lou is immediately smitten.

Is Jackie as sweet as she appears, or is she street-cunning?   She’s already cashed in on her considerable charms to persuade local sleazeball JJ to arrange a job interview at the local gun-club.

JJ is played by Dave Franco – an actor who usually has a label round his neck reading “loser” – while the gun-club owner is played by Ed Harris in the most bizarre hairstyle I’ve seen this year – bald on top, mullet on the bottom.  

He’s also Lou’s father.

By now Jackie’s moved into Lou’s apartment, and in exchange she’s offered to help Jackie’s aim for body-building stardom with an endless supply of illegal steroids. 

Adding a final element to the already toxic mixture of Love Lies Bleeding.

The film was written and directed by British film-maker Rose Glass, who made a big impression with another violent shocker, the low-budget Saint Maud. 

This time, with the bigger budget that having Kristen Stewart on board gives her, she’s decided to take it all further. There will be blood.

Glass has her own view of strong women characters. In a recent interview, she said “We keep seeing movies about women triumphing over oppressive forces because we’re somehow ethically or morally superior. I’m so sick of that movie.”  

And in Love Lies Bleeding she’s prepared to put the movie’s money where her mouth is.

The relationship between Lou and Jackie takes an unnerving direction when doped-up Jackie gets off the leash, and Lou needs to tidy up afterwards.

It reminded me of the plot-heavy, hard-boiled B-movies of the Fifties. They were called things like Detour, Desperate and The Devil Thumbs a Ride.

Love Lies Bleeding is straight out of that playbook.

Tough, not too bright characters, violence always on the verge of breaking out, and a lead character trying - and failing - to do the right thing, often because of meeting the wrong dame.

The twist being that this time the hero and the femme fatale are the same person. But in every other way, Love Lies Bleeding is the old story of everything you do to fix things just makes them worse.

On the plus side, a low budget goes a long way these days.  The film looks several million bucks, particularly when things go seriously haywire at the end.  

And there’s no Head Office peering over Glass’s shoulder, demanding an acceptable ending.

This isn’t a film that cares particularly what a mainstream audience will accept. By the end, there’s blood on the carpet - there’s blood all over the room in fact - and a few images in your memory you hope time will erase eventually.

And there’s no moral at all. Love’s not the only thing left bleeding at the finish.

Get the RNZ app

for easy access to all your favourite programmes

Subscribe to At The Movies

Podcast (MP3) Oggcast (Vorbis)