In Review: Red Sparrow

Jennifer Lawrence has a new attempt at a franchise with Red Sparrow, a post-Cold War yarn of an injured Russian dancer named Dominika recruited to the spy game. Attempting to care for her handicapped mother she submits to become a Russian sparrow, undercover agents trained to manipulate with sexuality and also willful submissives to a punishing governmental agenda. Dominika falls for her first mark, an American agent Nate Nash (named as such in case you couldn’t already tell you’re really dealing with pulp, no doubt) played by Joel Edgerton – and perhaps finds her way out of subjugation. The entire enterprise is even more skeevy and derivative than it sounds.


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In Review!: “Joy”

David O. Russell continues his study on group dynamics within the down-and-out and hard on their luck with Jennifer Lawrence showcase Joy. The director’s muse is finally center stage after being romantic lead in Oscar-winning Silver Linings Playbook and dipping into a character role (and her best performance) in American Hustle, and the film is also Russell’s first with a singular protagonist – though without sacrificing his fascination with ensembles just left of center. As the film becomes more interested in its heroine’s emergence and success rather the familiar world she inhabits, it finds its footing, but looses some of its teeth.


Less ambitious than Hustle or the existential I Heart Huckabees and more accessible than even the lighthearted Playbook, here you have both the most enervated of Russell’s freestyle rhythms and his most unfocused. Somehow, the sum of its parts works, and not just because of Lawrence working in peak form. Each of the film’s three acts feel divided by massive tonal shifts as plot devices get discarded, as if Russell is unsure of an angle to approach his subject and her family or is stuck after keeping too many balls in there. Again, somehow Joy feels messily complete.

Beginning in medias res with whole swaths of family history alluded to without specifics, Lawrence’s Joy (based mostly on Joy Mangano, though her full name goes without mention) becomes an entrepreneur almost by accident after a life unfulfilled to the confidence of her grandmother matriarch’s (Diane Ladd, given shockingly little to do considering) assertion of her become a strong, successful woman. Naturally, the family dynamic is where Russell excels, creating a believably unified yet fractured system of extended family and generational differences. The textured range of daughters, mothers, step-relatives, and friends rings vividly true – with Russell clearly invigorated to make a film so about women.

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A Peek of The Hollywood Reporter’s Annual Actress Roundtable

Every Oscar season, the major media outlets get the year’s most talked about artists in rooms for delicious conversations on their craft. The one I naturally anticipate the most: The Hollywood Reporter’s Actress Roundtable. This year’s participants are Cate Blanchett (Carol & Truth), Jane Fonda (Youth), Brie Larson (Room), Jennifer Lawrence (Joy), Helen Mirren (Trumbo), Carey Mulligan (Suffragette), Charlotte Rampling (45 Years), and Kate Winslet (Steve Jobs).

You can read the major points online now, along with some brief clips, but the full conversation should be online in the weeks to come (also to be available on Sundance TV beginning January 10). Be sure to also take a look at filmmixtape’s current Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress predictions!

If you haven’t seen the teases on Twitter, Variety’s always charming Actors on Actors series is coming soon as well.

Side note: kudos on the colors ladies! Brie’s sharp vermilion, Carey’s smooth mustard, Jennifer’s cozy sage! I’m starting to hate the phrase, but this is what YAS QWEENs are made of.