‘Love Lies Bleedings’ Review: Sex, Guns & Lots of Steroids

Peter reviews Love Lies Bleeding, an intense, effective, and darkly comedic neo-noir from director from director Rose Glass, starring Kristen Stewart and Katy O'Brian.
User Rating: 8.5

A24’s Love Lies Bleeding serves up equal measures of the aforementioned love, lies, and plenty of blood. It stars Kristen Stewart and Katy O’Brian in a twisted love story by director/co-writer Rose Glass, whose previous effort was the horror tale Saint Maude. The balance of tension and violence is still present but with an added layer of black humor. Body horror, which might not be for everyone, is expertly woven, too.

Lou (Stewart) is a reclusive gym manager who falls hard for Jackie (O’Brian), an ambitious bodybuilder heading to Las Vegas to pursue her dream. Their relationship soon leads to violence as they get pulled deep into the web of Lou’s criminal family. Lou’s father, Lou Sr. (Ed Harris), is the head of that family. Will Jackie be able to maintain her relationship with Lou while diving deeper into steroid use for her bodybuilding Vegas debut? Can Lou get out of her father’s bullet-riddled shadow?

See Also: ‘Drive-Away Dolls’ Review: A Fun Car Ride with Snacks, Mystery, and Jokes

Like Lou’s constant struggle to quit smoking, being able to leave bad habits is central to the Louisville crime flick set during George H. Bush’s first and only term as POTUS. Cassette tapes that supply Lou with positive reinforcement to quit nicotine and more than a few questionable haircuts offer serious late 80s/early 90s vibes. Dave Franco’s mullet-wearing bother-in-law JJ, who’s probably abusive and definitely an awful human being, is one such time-capsuled sleaze. Nearly everyone in this story wants out, but some are better at hiding such aspirations than others.

If you can’t escape your past, then maybe transform your future? There’s no hiding Jackie’s sizeable goals the moment she enters frame one. O’Brian’s physique is not to be messed with, but her steely eyes impress harder than her muscles. A former mixed MMA fighter, she imbues Jackie with equal parts confidence and vulnerability. Whether that’s setting her sights on a lover like Lou or someone to brutally take down, Jackie is quite literally morphing into something new.

The Ying to Jackie and Lou’s Yang is Lou Sr., A man hiding decades of terrible deeds in a vaginal-like crevasse in a wide open desert. A sight that cannot be unseen. And like O’Brian’s physicality, Lou Sr. Harris’ weathered face (and that hair!) tell many tales. As a presence of menace, Harris has played this kind of role before, but nevertheless, the legendary actor finds new beats, new ways of being threatening, at times funny, and ultimately human.

The main attraction for Love Live Bleeding is to see its star, Kristen Stewart, in one of her best roles to date. It’s often said that truly successful people lean into their quirks, a la “it’s a feature, not a bug.” That’s certainly the case with Stewart. Once seen (unfairly) as the YA star of the Twilight series, the American-born actress reads nearly every line of dialogue in a way simply no other actor would or even could. The struggle, for Lou, though, is just how much the character owes to her father’s legacy.

Like any great film, there’s a lot to unpack here. From the stunning score by Cliff Mansell to the costumes by Olga Mill, everything is compelling and not some trite version of a bygone era. As the Gen Z kids say, there are real “vibes” to the whole project that feel earned.

As a feature, Love Lies Bleeding is a winner. Yet beyond that, the film is emotionally mature, considering the themes of betrayal, regret, and evolution. Stewart delivers one of her best performances amongst an equally game cast. We’re early into 2024, but make no mistake: Love Lies Bleeding is one of the best so far and will likely carry that weight through much of the year.

Love Lies Bleeding is now playing in select theaters. It expands wide on March 15, 2024.

Written by
Peter Paras is pop culture writer who has been reviewing films for the past fifteen years. Raised in Chicago—but an Angeleno since the start of 21st century—he has plenty to say about films, television, videogames, and the occasional YouTube channel. He’s a frequent guest on Out Now with Aaron and Abe, as well as TV Campfire Podcast. His work has been published at Why So Blu, Game Revolution and E! Online. His favorites include: Sunset Blvd, Step Up 2 The Streets, Hackers, Paris Is Burning, both installments of The Last of Us, Destiny 2, and Frasier.

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