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  • Nate Adams

'Love Lies Bleeding' review: Lesbian thriller goes bananas


Courtesy of A24

 

A dark, grimy, and twisted noir that blurs the line between reality and lunacy, Rose Glass’ “Love Lies Bleeding” never takes its foot off the wheel, taking viewers on a wild ride where two lovers must confront their demons. Glass’ last film, the equally gonzo “Saint Maud,” dealt with similar themes of devotion and commitment, however, it could sometimes bite off more than it could chew. “Love Lies Bleeding'' is somewhere within that orbit, offering more stylistic swagger than strong character archs, but it’s never boring. Everything operates in smooth rhythm and it features a murderous row of hellacious performances, including a zany Ed Harris (sporting an incredible wig), the hulking Katy O’Brian, and the always reliant Kristen Stewart who continues being one of the defining actors of her generation. 


Set in 1989 in what feels like a fictionalized underworld, Stewart plays Lou, who we first meet unclogging the toilet of the gym she manages on the outskirts of New Mexico. After an aspiring bodybuilder named Jackie (O’Brian) drifts into town, she quickly catches Lou’s attention, who’s only recent hooked up was with the overbearing and clingy Daisy (Anna Baryshnikov), and they hit it off instantaneously. Following an after hours gym sesh, where Lou gives her steroids, and Jackie slugs a homophobic jock, they’re ripping each other's clothes off in the bedroom. The next morning, Lou offers Jackie a place to stay at her house.    


Jackie is training for a competition in Las Vegas and she literally rolls into town on fumes and unknowingly hooked up with Lou’s brother JJ (Dave Franco) for a job at the nearby gun range her father, Lou Sr (Harris - still cranking out memorable performances in his senior years) owns. It might sound convoluted on paper, but Glass keeps everything fluid, and the crux of “Love Lies Bleeding,” ultimately boils down to the sense of hopelessness and how Lou and Jackie need each other now more than ever. Especially after a timeline of events, involving JJ and his abuse towards Lou’s sister, Beth (Jena Malone), comes to a head with a fatal series of consequences. 


As the severity of the situation keeps evolving, which syncs up with Jackie’s steroid injections, which in turn creates even more sequences of unhinged chaos, “Love Lies Bleeding” becomes the type of communal experience where you just throw your heads up because, well, it can be a little much. While the bloodshed and violence is over-the-top and can be grueling to endure, you also can’t help but laugh at its total commitment for realism (shout-out to all the foley artists and sound designers who made every punch, crack, and muscle bulge feel like a needle was getting stuck into my back). 


Lou and Jessica’s journey gets a little bumpy in the final act where the grungy late eighties aesthetic gives way for some psychedelic fever dreams. It’s fine, but it intrudes on the “Thelma & Louis” vibes suggested by the primary relationships. Nevertheless, “Love Lies Bleeding” never stops chugging along with Stewart and O’Brien happily in the driver's seat, seeing where the road takes their characters on the path to salvation. 


Grade: B+ 


LOVE LIES BLEEDING is now playing in theaters.    


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