Red Sparrow review
In the spirit of her new movie, let's talk about Jennifer Lawrence. Most people remember her for two things. One, she was the lead of The Hunger Games franchise, which seemed to kick start the young adult trend of movies (you could make the argument that Harry Potter series did this, though that started off as a family friendly series). She took this character and made Katness Everdeen into role models for those to stand up for themselves. Second, Jennifer Lawrence has been nominated (winning for Silver Linings Playbook) several times, making herself not just popular with the critics, but solidifying that she is a phenomenal actress.
I too see her as such. Her look and body type allows her to step into a variety of film roles, and she can also play comedic and dramatic roles (this is more difficult them most people realize). It makes sense that she would try a variety of roles to see if she can further separate herself from The Hunger Games. Some have been good and some have been…interesting. I'm always excited to see what she'll attempt to take on. Now that she's teaming up with Hunger Games director Francis Lawrence (no relation), let's see if Red Sparrow can push her further.
In modern Russia, famed ballerina Dominika Egorova (played by Jennifer Lawrence) suffers a leg injury that ends her career. This puts her in a situation where she can't care for her sick mother. Her uncle Ivan, who works in Russian Intelligence, offers her the governments pension in exchange of seducing a state politician and replacing his phone. Instead, the politician is murdered and because there can be no witnesses, Dominika is given the choice of being a red sparrow, an agent that uses their bodies, or be executed. For the sake of her mother, she choses the red sparrow.
She's sent to a camp where she and fellow Russians are broken down psychologically in order to be able to handle any situation, no matter how sexual or crazy. She manages to exceed in her class and is even given her first assignment in Budapest. She's tasked into getting information from a CIA operative Nate Nash (played by Joel Edgerton). Though he figures out fast that she's a Russian operative, she reveals that she's willing to become a double agent if this means getting her and her mother out of the country.
With the recent controversy of sexual harassment and the "Me Too" movement going on, Red Sparrow seems like the right kind of movie to be made; of a woman who uses body and mind to her advantage. The problem is of how the content is played out. It's clear that Red Sparrow was made as a more adult film to separate itself from the director's and Jennifer Lawrence's past Hunger Games movies. Though she does allow herself to be filmed in the nude and we see the character go through some dark things, I cant shake the feeling that the studio was trying to find the balance of mainstream acceptance and the kind of raw content that's usually found in independent movies. It still feels too safe.
But that wouldn’t matter if the story and cast was good…and it's not. Jennifer Lawrence gives a passing performance, but nothing special. It sounds like I'm being mean, but much of it isn't her fault. A lot of it is the script that despite giving her a lot of time as a ballerina and as an agent, I still don't know her personality. What are her likes? Dislikes? It's another autopilot performance. It's not like Katness Everdeen where the first thirty minutes of Hunger Games did give us what her personality was like.
Even it's tone is all over the place. The trailer will trick people into thinking the majority of the story is of her at camp. It does do that, but most of it is of her as an agent. As much as the film tries to put her into a situation where she's conflicted by her country and doing what's right, I couldn’t care. It jumps around without a set place or focus other then her as an agent. I might have been more on board had the characters been better.
I'll give this two Russian propaganda posters out of five. Jennifer Lawrence is giving everything to a script that doesn't progress her as an actress nor even challenge her too much. Red Sparrow is one bird that can fly away.