Black Swan, Red Sparrow: A Review Of Red Sparrow
Bear with me: Jennifer Lawrence stars in Red Sparrow, a film based on the novel of former CIA operative Jason Matthews. Sparrow is directed by Frank Lawrence who directed Jennifer in three Hunger Games installments. Until November of 2017, Jennifer was linked to Darren Aronofsky, who directed Black Swan and mother! (the latter starred Jennifer).
So is it a coincidence that Red Sparrow opens with Jennifer portraying Russian prima ballerina Dominika Egorova (echoes of Black Swan?); who after a career-ending injury, is coerced to join the Sparrow program, where young adults are turned into masters of seduction and murder for espionage purposes? To be honest, I was trying to create such connections and linkages with this triangle of the two Lawrences and Aronofsky; if only to keep my mind preoccupied and avoid paying attention to what was happening onscreen - or what sadly wasn't happening.
I'll confess to not having read Matthews; so given the popularity of his spy thrillers, I'll give him the benefit of the doubt and believe there are riveting film adaptations down the road for his novels. As this Red Sparrow definitely isn't that riveting film treatment. I think watching grass grow might hold even more excitement!
There's gratuitous violence, there's angry sex, there's hinted at incest, graphic torture and double-crossing; but there isn't a lot of action, and there's no real investing in the characters. And besides Jennifer, there is a host of British actors putting on inconsistent, muddled Russian accents. The usually impressive Joel Edgerton (Australian) is on board as an American agent; but even he's a limp duck, floundering in this film. While this is obviously a Jennifer vehicle and she's always been interesting to watch; the film's narrative just never picks up steam - and we're left with a bleak, perpetually tepid, high stakes espionage story.
In the past, we've had Salt and Atomic Blonde, where kickass female agents took center stage, and which knew not to take themselves too seriously. With Red Sparrow, we don't get any form of tongue-in-cheek attitude; and instead, the film is saddled with a poker-faced earnestness that honestly had me looking for the remote to change channels ... until I realized I was in a movie house.
Remember my image of triangles? Let's expand that notion, and say it seems Jennifer Lawrence in in her own Bermuda Triangle. After the pervy, misguided Passengers, we had the intriguing fail of mother!, and now there's the lukewarm Red Sparrow. Her management better find her the right project soon.