Keith’s Movie Korner: ‘Love Lies Bleeding’ is Hulkishly unfiltered

By Keith Walther | Rose Law Group Reporter

In what feels like a rejected darker origin screenplay of Disney’s “She-Hulk,” comes an unorthodox love story whose brazenly violent imagination will appeal to some and alienate others. “Love Lies Bleeding” is a risk-taking romantic action thriller that is shocking with its visceral images. The unique title actually comes from a plant of the same name known for its hanging red clusters of flowers, but unlike the plant this film is anything but pretty…in a good way.

With aspirations of winning a bodybuilding competition in Las Vegas, Jackie (Katy O’Brian) looks to fund her expedition with a part-time job in a small town. She crosses paths with the local gym manager, Lou (Kristen Stewart), who becomes immediately smitten with the muscularly imposing woman. A passionate romance ensues, creating an inseparable bond where they would do anything for each other, even if that means murder.

As Jackie becomes involved in Lou’s complicated family situation with her sister Beth (Jena Malone) receiving horrible physical abuse from her husband JJ (Dave Franco), she becomes increasingly protective of Lou. Once Jackie crosses a line and inserts herself, Lou’s father Lou Sr. (Ed Harris), becomes threatened that his criminal enterprise will be exposed to the FBI, so he seeks to eliminate any and all loose ends. As the bodies begin piling up, this whirlwind love connection faces insurmountable obstacles that threaten to not only end their relationship, but also their lives.

It should be known that A24 loves producing and distributing films that take big risks like “The Iron Claw,” “Dream Scenario,” or “The Zone of Interest” to name just a few of their hits from the past year. “Love Lies Bleeding” is directed and co-written by Rose Glass, who didn’t hesitate to take multiple risks with this production, some of which pay off while others do not. Rose clearly wanted to craft a beautiful love story surrounded by ugliness trying to squash the budding romance. To that end, she succeeds, creating this bleak environment of a poor town in the late 1980s. Almost every scene is filmed with a layer of grunge and grime that will make viewers yearn for a bath after watching. Even the actors are made to look filthy with their worn clothes, hairstyle, and sweat soaked bodies. All of this is done to achieve realism and emphasize the point that not all love stories are pretty.

Rose Glass takes additional risks with the visceral and violent imagery, knowing full well this will alienate the film from audiences who don’t appreciate the graphic displays. In addition, following recent trends set by films like “Barbie” and “The Royal Hotel,” she purposely depicts all male characters in the film as immoral, stupid, abusive, and downright evil. However, she does this a little more subtly, focusing more on the love story than on the popular topic of toxic masculinity. She does take one too many risks, opting for a comic book style climax that derails the ending and induces ridiculing laughter and eye rolling at the film rather than the creative symbolism she was trying to convey. This is only Glass’ second feature length film, and she has undeniable talent as a filmmaker despite the missteps, so her future is bright.

This is not the type of cast that will turn heads and sell tickets, but it’s a talented cast nonetheless that do their job and give life to these characters. Kristen Stewart provides a three-dimensional performance reminiscent of her Joan Jett portrayal in “The Runaways.” Veteran actor and four-time Oscar nominee Ed Harris captures the essence of selfish evil in this straightforward antagonistic role complete with a bald head in the front and a mullet in the back. Often underrated actress Jena Malone believably plays a victim of an abusive husband, which subsequently provides the convenient yet plausible domino effect that unfolds. Then there’s Katy O’Brian, who makes an immediate impact on the movie with her appearance alone, looking like a female version of Lou Ferrigno. Her shocking image is matched with a surprisingly elegant yet vicious performance as a physically imposing woman who finds her inner strength through love. To put it mildly, the bad guys don’t want to make her angry, they won’t like it when she’s angry.

There’s a lot to like about a film that is reminiscent of “True Romance,” and director Rose Glass should be applauded for her creativity and risk taking, but the ending leaves a lot to be desired. “Love Lies Bleeding” is unapologetic with its in-your-face approach, and the underlying dark humor rewards audiences who appreciate that type of comedy. This is not a film for everyone, in fact its target demographic is rather small, and its superhero influenced storyline is a turnoff for some.

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March 2024