Combustible Celluloid Review - Love Lies Bleeding (2024), Rose Glass, Weronika Tofilska, Rose Glass, Kristen Stewart, Katy O'Brian, Jena Malone, Anna Baryshnikov, Dave Franco, Ed Harris
Combustible Celluloid
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With: Kristen Stewart, Katy O'Brian, Jena Malone, Anna Baryshnikov, Dave Franco, Ed Harris
Written by: Rose Glass, Weronika Tofilska
Directed by: Rose Glass
MPAA Rating: R for violence and grisly images, sexual content, nudity, language throughout and drug use
Running Time: 104
Date: 03/15/2024

Love Lies Bleeding (2024)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Tales from the Ripped

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

English filmmaker Rose Glass's follow-up to her searing Saint Maud is not another horror film, but an almost-as-intense queer road romance with murder and fits of 'roid rage. It's 1989 in New Mexico. Lou (Kristin Stewart, outstanding) works at a grungy gym that seems to be in the middle of nowhere. The first time we see her, she's elbow-deep in a clogged-up toilet. We learn that the only reason she stays around this wretched town is to protect her sister, Beth (Jena Malone), who is married to the abusive JJ (Dave Franco). One day, Jackie (Katy O'Brian) walks into the gym. Jackie is ripped, with muscular arms and legs, a bouncing crop of curly dark hair, freckles, and a cute smile. Lou is transported.

After an altercation in the parking lot, Lou and Jackie hang out. Lou gives Jackie some steroids. Jackie then accompanies Lou home for sex, and winds up staying. She's getting ready for a competition in Las Vegas that she hopes will lead to something good, a way to find some roots. But when Beth winds up in the hospital, badly beaten, Jackie — out of devotion to Lou — goes to JJ's house and bashes his face on the coffee table so many times that his jaw falls off. Lou cleans up the crime scene and dumps the body in a ravine, hoping that, when the cops investigate, they will find other bodies dumped by her no-good father (Ed Harris, looking like the Cryptkeeper). Lou tells Jackie that they must pretend nothing happened, and go about their business, but it means they can't go to Vegas.

Another problem is that Lou's clingy, weird ex-girlfriend Daisy (Anna Baryshnikov) spotted them while they were transporting the body. And Lou's father begins sending the police — which he has bought and paid for — to investigate the disappearance of JJ. There's plenty more, but to tell the truth, I'm not sure it was all as intense as I was expecting it to be. (The "R" rating from the MPAA promises vicious ride.) It's certainly more brutal than this year's other queer-murder-road movie Drive-Away Dolls, but it has a hopeful quality; it stays on track with its romantic dream and it doesn't ever feel derailed. What's more, I wasn't sure why Lou and Jackie couldn't go to Vegas since the trip was already planned and wouldn't have been out of the ordinary. But I suppose there would have been no movie otherwise.

Which is not to say that I wasn't thoroughly entertained by Love Lies Bleeding. It's a great movie about the power of women, both in terms of Jackie's physical strength, and the more metaphorical strength of Lou, able to handle tough situations and generally in charge of her own destiny. (The opposite is true of Beth, gaslighted into believing she's happily married when her husband is a monster.) Glass places these characters in a vivid world, isolated and dusty and with plenty of open space. It's the opposite of tense or claustrophobic. There's room to get inside these characters and understand their triumphs and agonies, and it even makes sense when they go a little crazy.

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