Jennifer Lawrence

MOVIE REVIEW: Why I Walked Out of Jennifer Lawrence’s “Red Sparrow”

I’ve been struggling to write a review of Red Sparrow, and not just because I don’t know how it ends (yeah, I walked out). See, even I was surprised by the strong reaction I had to this dull, but not entirely awful film about a ballerina who is forced to become a Russian spy. Dominika suffers a career-ending injury but must still care for her ailing mother. She accepts the help of her creepy Uncle, who just happens to be the head of a dangerous Russian Intelligence Agency. This is where Dominkia is taught to be a Red Sparrow, which is essentially a spy who uses sex to get information.
What follows is a seemingly endless montage of sex, sometimes violent, sometimes not, but always starring Lawrence in some ridiculous bathing-suit, lingerie, or slinky dress. Later in the film, we are treated to a full-blown torture scene where Lawrence, in various stages of nudity, suffers some of the worst abuse I’ve seen onscreen.
This is nothing new, but it reminded me of a scene in mother!, where Jennifer Lawrence is kicked and punched until her boobs fly out of her shirt.
I remember asking in a podcast afterwards, “Why are they beating Jennifer Lawrence up in movies? Who wants to see that?
I found myself asking the exact same question as her character was sexually-assaulted a second time in Red Sparrow.
Who wants to see this and, more importantly, why are we making movies for them?
I understand that violence and sex have gone hand-in-hand in cinema since Edison lit the first Kinetoscope, and that writers often feel it’s important for character development. The scenes of rape and torture in Red Sparrow feel more salacious than pivotal though, and hit especially hard during this #MeToo moment.
It’s hard to watch one of my favorite actresses being raped and abused onscreen after the countless casting-couch stories I’ve heard recently. I can’t help but worry about her safety and mental state, especially after reading that she had crying bouts while filming mother! I’m sure that Jennifer Lawrence would attest to her commitment to the role of Dominkia and assert her trust in directors like Francis Lawrence (who also directed her in three Hunger Games movies) and Darren Aronofsky (whom she dated while filming mother!, which still creeps me out). I assumed that things were fine between Uma Thurman and Quentin Tarantino too though, and now know that wasn’t the case.
I’m afraid that months of being shocked by stories of rape and abuse at the hands of directors I used to love has left me disillusioned and distrustful. It’s also made it difficult to watch movies that feature so much sexualized violence, like Red Sparrow.
But it’s just a movie, right?
Sure, Red Sparrow is just a movie, but this need to constantly brutalize women in film is something we should question. We should also make doubly certain that there aren’t correlations between the way women are treated on Hollywood screens and how they’re treated by Hollywood filmmakers.
Is there a connection between the abuse women experience on casting-couches and the abuse their characters experience onscreen? And how does this relate to the violence women experience in real-life, throughout the world?
I asked myself all of these questions while watching Red Sparrow and not knowing the answers made me uncomfortable enough to just walk the f**ck out.
(F…in fact, just rent La Femme Nikita instead.)


    1. If you really want to see Red Sparrow, PLEASE go ahead & see it. Many critics enjoyed it and you would probably see it with a different eye than I did. I’d hate to think someone missed seeing a movie they were excited about just because it rubbed me the wrong way. Plus, I think knowing what it’s like going in would help.

  1. I agree with you Julie. This movie was terrible and I for one, couldn’t wait for it to end.
    IMO if Jennifer doesn’t make some better career decisions soon , after this and Mother( which was so bad, I felt physically ill afterwards) she will soon be a ‘has been’.

    1. I heard that she was going to take a break after this and focus on something other than movies. I hope so because she definitely deserves better projects than this one.

  2. I walked out too!! At what point did you walk? I wanted to walk out after the first rape but thought, “it’s got to have a point and get better” I walked out when they started peeling off the skin of the other spy. I have no idea how it ends nor do I care.

    1. That’s exactly when I left! I kept going over all of the possible scenarios that would make it all worth it and just couldn’t come up with one!

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