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‘Love Lies Bleeding’ Is Not Kristen Stewart’s Magnum Opus — She Is Just Getting Started

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Kristen Stewart’s latest sweaty masterpiece, “Love Lies Bleeding,” is a gory depiction of power, strength and queer excellence, released by A24 on March 8 and directed by Rose Glass. Doomed to a simple life of unclogging toilets at the gym she works at, microwaving her meals and dodging her yellow-toothed and persistent coworker-slash-casual hookup, Stewart’s character Lou wants nothing more than to leave New Mexico — but she can’t. Caught by her past of participating in her father’s crime circus, her life is violently interrupted by Jackie (Katy O’Brian), a muscle chick passing through town on her way to a bodybuilding competition in Las Vegas. 

The two quickly develop an intense relationship involving injectable steroids and separating egg yolks from their whites, and the story devolves into something sinister, with Dave Franco’s face smashed brutally on a wooden table and his car pushed into a gorge. When a criminal case ensues, tensions run even higher, and under this pressure, Stewart offers a subtle yet visceral performance that carries the audience effortlessly through the film. 

Sensual, daring and emotionally captivating, Stewart completely gives herself over to this film.

In a cover story for Rolling Stone, Stewart addresses criticism of her previous acting roles, including the notorious Bella Swan in the Twilight Saga films. 

“The studio was trying to make a movie for kids,” she said. “They didn’t want what actually was the book. When the fuck are [Bella and Edward] smiling, ever?”

Her portrayal of Bella was never appreciated for what it was — an accurate embodiment of the character: awkward, melancholy, yearning and cynical. Faced with so many critiques, it is easy to blame Stewart as an actress, to blame her inhibited performance lacking luster in a cultural behemoth that became Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight Saga

Since the series, however, Stewart has come out as a lesbian, on SNL, no doubt, dissing former president Donald Trump in the process, and has effectively come out of herself as an actress. Visibly more comfortable, suave and proud of who she has become, she is committed to displaying her most naked self in the roles she chooses to take on. Although “Love Lies Bleeding” is her most gripping display of excellence thus far, it is far from her last. 

“It’s great to be there in the audience, in particular hearing people make involuntary gasping noises and laughing in all places you hope they would,” Glass told the Associated Press in an interview. “So far it’s been very nice and positive and for people who don’t like it, I’m like ‘fair enough!’ It’s not for everyone.”

Stewart rejects this notion that the film is not for everyone, however, referring to the adaptation of “Chronology of Water” she’s been working on, advocating for “weeding out” friends based on reactions to a film. 

“Not to be alienating and sort of us and them-y about it. But it is like, hey, ready? I’m going to sell the movie: Not for everyone. But that’s why it actually should be for everyone!” 

On opening day, the AMC Grove 14’s 2:30 p.m. screening of “Love Lies Bleeding” was packed with queer people, alternatively dressed with colored hair, tattoos and piercings, excited to take in Stewart’s newest work of art. Her undeniable presence and advocacy drive admirers to the theater, in turn creating like-minded micro-communities that demonstrate just how important queer films are for the LGBTQIA+ community. 

Jamie Lauren Keiles wrote a review on Letterboxd March 7: “Whole theater was lesbians, half of them showed up 20 minutes late, two girls in the row behind me had to change seats because of a love triangle situation.” 

She donned the film four stars, and her review received 5,535 likes in user agreeance, as of March 26. 

Another fan, Demi Adejuyigbe wrote, “Loved loved loved loved loved this. One of my favorite recent theatrical experiences, I hope everybody sees this in a packed theater, I know I will again. So darkly comic and propulsive, it just rips,” giving the film four-and-a-half stars.

From her Oscar-nominated portrayal of Princess Diana in “Spencer,” Stewart flew right into the role of Lou, chopping off her hair and saying goodbye to the beloved princess in exchange for an edgier, gayer shag cut. 

“It was really fucking fun to be allowed to have the little, dykey sister be the main protagonist in a movie,” Stewart said in the Rolling Stone article. “That’s never the main character in a movie.”

Lesbian media has long been structured for the male gaze, defining even relationships without men by the content men are interested in seeing. The female body becomes a product, commodified and sexualized, on display for an audience. This often results in inaccurate or unrealistic stereotypes and dangerous generalizations, which can perpetuate discrimination and social stigma off-screen. 

Careful not to fall into any stereotypes, “Love Lies Bleeding” acts as a fresh take on crime noir and features a queer story that does not involve a “coming out” one. No secrecy, no censoring — it is everything “Bound” (1996) wanted to be and more. 

Stewart told Them, “What I love about this movie is that the queerness isn’t the conflict … It’s the type of film that I, as a queer person, would want to watch — to not have drama around my sexuality, and to just admire these two absolutely whacky individuals.” 

Sensual and raw, audiences can taste the tension on the screen and see it in Stewart’s eyes as she watches Jackie practice her bodybuilding routine in the living room. It turns everything about the noir genre on its head, modernizing the story through the ferocity of lesbian love and sidelining the male roles nearly completely, proudly on display for anyone to see. 

Stewart is done hiding. “Love Lies Bleeding” is just her latest installment in building her utterly gay repertoire. She told Rolling Stone of her future career endeavors, “Now, I want to do the gayest fucking thing you’ve ever seen in your life.”

Lillian Dunn is a 2023-2024 Arts & Entertainment Editor. She can be reached at lbdunn@uci.edu

Edited by Kamilla Jafarova,  Jaheem Conley and Jennifer Cheong