Movie Review | 'Love Lies Bleeding' 

click to enlarge From left, Katy O'Brian as Jackie and Kristen Stewart as Lou.


From left, Katy O'Brian as Jackie and Kristen Stewart as Lou.

Grimy, sleazy, sweaty, goofy and a great time: these are some of the words that describe Rose Glass's new film "Love Lies Bleeding."

This is the director's follow-up to her 2021 film "Saint Maud," a religious-themed horror picture which slowly found an audience after its festival debut in 2019 before being released when theaters reopened post-pandemic. While the movie didn't set the box office on fire, for many it made Glass a director to watch — there was no doubt Glass had a singular voice.

Glass's first feature did what most debut efforts should; it made her audience anticipate her next outing behind the camera. "Love Lies Bleeding" operates on a larger scale than "Saint Maud," but its stripped-down B-movie aesthetics are what make it so memorable.

Kristen Stewart plays gym manager Lou, who sees Jackie (Katy O'Brian) working out one night and is impressed by her sizable, muscular frame. Jackie is a drifter, stopping through the unnamed town on her way to a bodybuilding competition in Las Vegas. She has no place to stay, no money in her pocket, but the two take an immediate liking to one another. Their initial interactions are sexy and primal, but the cloud hanging over the film indicates the honeymoon phase may be brief, if it exists at all.

Lou is surrounded by a complicated family life. FBI agents are often knocking at her door asking about her father (Ed Harris), who she doesn't speak to; and her sister, Beth (Jena Malone), is in an abusive marriage with JJ (Dave Franco). Lou would have left town earlier, but feels compelled to watch over her sister because their mother is nowhere to be found and their father doesn't factor into Lou's calculations.

Experiencing the moody atmosphere of "Love Lies Bleeding" is what often makes the movie exciting, moreso than the plot itself. The screenplay — written by Glass and Weronika Tofilska — is undoubtedly thrilling, but the story issues are glaring. Lou and Jackie's relationship happens so suddenly, which can be reconciled as perhaps being the point of the whirlwind madness of the movie, but it feels like a way to rush the looming madness to come. But perhaps it's a strategy that plays into the dark, twisted fun Glass has in store later. Even when moments in the final act become laughably ludicrous, audience members will find themselves laughing with "Love Lies Bleeding," rather than at the film.

Stewart's signature nervous energy is a perfect fit for Glass's noir vision. Lou spends her life looking over her shoulder, unsure if her next move will be too drastic and cause damage to herself or her sister, and Stewart infuses Lou with necessary apprehension. Defending Stewart has become redundant in her post-"Twilight" career, but she has shown her ability to move in and out of genres seamlessly. "Love Lies Bleeding" allows her range to show, including her mastery of deadpan delivery. (For all the violence and rage in the movie, it is also quite funny.)

Glass has a unique vision of what her film career is going to look like, but she doesn't shy away from her influences on display throughout the movie. Some will say it's Tarantino, others will say it's "Thelma and Louise" on steroids. What Glass does magnificently is never coast on her influences — rather, she turns them on their head and makes a bold, entertaining movie. "Love Lies Bleeding" can be picked apart for story inconsistencies, but it's the first great shot of cinematic adrenaline in 2024.

Matt Passantino is a contributing writer to CITY.
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