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Red Sparrow’s faux feminism fails

The last time I reviewed a Jennifer Lawrence movie was sophomore year when I saw her film Joy. At the time I was raving; loving Lawrence in her on demand power role as a successful businesswoman who came from nothing.

Here we are again, in 2018, watching her take on another badass female character. Or are we?

Francis Lawrence’s Red Sparrow details a story of ballerina dancer Dominika Egorova who is recruited to enter “Sparrow School,” a Russian intelligence service that forces her to use her body as a weapon. Her first mission targets a CIA agent who threatens security of both the US and Russia.

It opens with Lawrence portraying Dominika Egorova, a famous Russian ballerina dancing at one of her shows when her male partner literally lands on her leg and breaks it! Everyone in the audience gasped as the sound of cracking echoed through the theater. We fast forward and we watch Dominika struggle to pay bills and take care of her ill mother because basically her ballet company was paying for everything. Her uncle, who is Russia’s chief deputy comes to offer her help under one condition, she becomes a “sparrow,” a Russian spy who’s main talent is seducing. First she says no, which was great to hear, but then her uncle basically bribes her with the fact that he’d take care of her mother. So, of course, she makes the deal.

Dominika enters this “Sparrow” school and learns everything she needs to know about seducing government officials. However, this school humiliates their students through sexual acts that are supposed to empower them to take power from those who they are seducing, all while giving back to the country of Russia, because “the state owns your body.” I shuttered at that line.

Dominika goes through countless acts of violence towards her body, which at some points were very hard to watch. After all the trauma, Dominika graduates and is put on he first mission: get close to American CIA agent Nate Nash, who knows the mole between Russian and American affairs. Easy right? Not so much.

The film goes on two watch Nate and Dominika relationship break and fall continuously. At one point, Nate wants to recruit her for American purposes because again, she’s just a commodity and not a human being. Which I have concluded is the statement of this film.

There were several parts of the movie where Dominika is tortured, in which I’ll admit I had to close my eyes for. With each scene, Russian beatings would get more cringeworthy to the viewer.

What viewers see at the end of the film is just a back and forth Russians and Americans trying to kill each other. We got to see new weapons, even a skin peeler with different settings on how deep a cut would be. Dramatic, I must say.

Let me tell you, cinematically I think the film did a wonderful job. But wow, does it lack depth. I’m very surprised Lawrence would take a role like this. I’ve heard a few comments saying this is “a feminist film to see.” Just because a female actress is well-known for her, to be honest, white feminism, it doesn’t make it feminist. I’m not even sure of the message here; to take power from the patriarchal society we live in? Watching Dominika go through what she went through and basically being “accused” for the multiple sexual assault she went through is, yes, sending a message that the way we view sexual assault is wrong, but there’s a better way to portray it.

Let’s not forget about her fake Russian accent! Here’s a tip America, stop making films about countries and their culture you know nothing about. Especially ones we’re not the best of friends with.


2/5 stars (being generous)


Red Sparrow is in theaters now.

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