A dirtbag gym owner and muscle mommy sitting on a car in LOVE LIES BLEEDING. credit: Warner Bros

Movie Review: Love Lies Bleeding (2024) *****

In Love Lies Bleeding, a dirtbag lesbian gym owner falls hard for a bisexual bodybuilder heading to a physique competition in Vegas. They share steroids, they fall in love, and then crime happens.

Before seeing this movie, I heard it described as genre-defying. That is nearly true. It would be fair to call this a crime movie with noir elements, too.

I posit that this is a queer wlw fantasy movie, almost exclusively. When I say fantasy, I mostly don’t mean fantasy elements (there is no Gandalf). I mean that this is a story written to please a lesbian, filmed to please a type of lesbian, depicting a lesbian story mostly through metaphor.

WLW here means woman-loving-woman, inclusive of those who are bisexual or lesbian — or the straight woman intimate with other women, which is more common than one might think. This is a broad category of human. The types of stories that speak to these humans will be as diverse and broad as the humans themselves.

I am a (sometimes) (often) wlw from the American West. I grew up a dirtbag in a small town, and I recognize this story. (Tag yourself: Are you the dirtbag enabler, the muscle mommy, or the flaky pasty one who’s always on something?)

A couple of broad lesbian stereotypes apply here. Have you heard of the U-Haul lesbian? The one where a couple of wlw meet and are instantly head-over-heels, lifelong commitment, ride-or-die? Yeah. That one. You also get the thing where wlw relationships can be extremely messy. There is the betrayal of realizing that your woman got dicked down, even though there’s nothing *technically* wrong with that.

Assumed boundaries are frequently, easily violated.

The size of wlw emotions are somehow bigger — perhaps because female socialization means that you’re likelier to have two people in contact with genuine emotion than you are in a het relationship. When things go wrong, they are very, very wrong. And when things go well, it is euphoria purer than any drug (sometimes there are also drugs).

What is a lesbian fantasy?

It’s the fantasy of men facing consequences: the man who hurts a woman you love, the man whose sperm helped bring you to this Earth, the man who is a fucking cop. It’s wishing so hard that you could kill your girlfriend’s girlfriend that you do it. It’s being able to recognize that women are tuned into the reality of pleasure more than any guy, who’s more in love with his dick. And it’s becoming so full of the love injected into you by your woman, you grow huge from it, capable of destroying anything, running away from everything, and being free.

Only in this context does Love Lies Bleeding make sense to me.

It’s a delirious, surreal piece of cinema noir that we’re lucky to have. This lens on womanly pleasure is uncommon, to say the least. You get dykes you don’t often see, and you see them well, writ with glorious artistic metaphor.

Even though I felt the energy flagged in the last minutes of the movie, I still left it thinking, “I am so happy I watched that. I really *liked* that.” I could criticize it by saying that it dropped the tension entirely, but I think what actually happens is that the climax isn’t when plot events peak, or when tension peaks, but when the women get what they needed the whole time. After that, cleaning up loose ends (including someone who seemed like a Big Villain) is just some simple housekeeping.

It’s a happy ending because we deserve a happy ending, not because it would be realistic. It’s a lesbian fantasy. Let us have it.

(image credit: Warner Bros.)

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