Right in the middle of Red Sparrow’s psychosexual insanity exists a phenomenal short film that I have titled “Mary-Louise Parker Doesn’t Really Give a Shit About Your Little Spy Movie, Jennifer Lawrence” (alternatively: “Drinking Out Loud with Mary-Louise Parker” or even “Mary-Louise Parker Fucking Rules,” followed by more exclamation points than AP style allows). In a single scene that lasts for approximately ten minutes, MLP drunkenly hobbles away with JLaw’s entire movie.
Here are the basics (spoilers, duh): Parker plays Stephanie Boucher, the chief of staff for an American senator. Power, control, blabbity blah — all that matters here that Boucher has a lot of secrets, and she’s not going to sell them to the Russian government before having a few drinks. When another Russian sparrow (Marta, played by Thekla Reuten) is unavailable, Jennifer Lawrence’s sex-spy Dominika steps in to handle a pending transaction with Stephanie, who’s Marta’s asset. She meets Stephanie in an oppressively bright hotel bar. Two important things happen here: Stephanie is wearing sunglasses indoors for a few beats too long, and she approaches the bar muttering simply, “Vodka.” With one word, we know everything about her: She’s not here to play around — and sure, because who goes to hotel bars during the daytime to make good decisions?
Dominika and Stephanie go upstairs to make the exchange: a duffel bag of cash for a handful of floppy disks with American secrets. A henchman oversees the swap, and Dominika excuses herself to another room to confirm the authenticity of Stephanie’s files (though as a Russian spy turned American spy, she’s actually swapping Stephanie’s floppy disks for dummy disks). With JLaw out of the room, we’re free to notice that Stephanie is incredibly and hilariously … shit-faced. More drunk than a freshman during orientation weekend or Emma Thompson at the Golden Globes, Stephanie drunkenly rambles about Russia, paying for her kid’s college tuition, and the butt-faced Russian bad guy. It’s a cinematic chef’s kiss.
Red Sparrow’s spying, sex, and triple-double crossing aren’t put on hold during Parker’s scene; everything else just ceases to matter. Wonder what government secrets Mary-Louise Parker is selling? Who cares. Does it matter that Red Sparrow seemingly takes place in the present day, yet these secrets are being traded on floppy disks? Again, whatever, it’s Mary-Louise Parker’s Oscar-worthy short film now. And what exactly is going on with Jennifer Lawrence’s bangs? Just go with the flow. All that we care about for ten straight minutes of Red Sparrow is that Mary-Louise Parker is very drunk and very rude: “Why are Russian women so sexy,” she asks the gruff henchman lurking in a hotel room as she and Dominika make their exchange, “and all the men look like toads?”
At Red Sparrow’s New York City premiere, Vulture caught up with Parker to ask her about the scene. “I just thought it would be fun to do a character that comes on in such a short span of time, and could make quite saturated choices that you might get sick of over the course of two hours,” she said. “Hopefully you can handle ten minutes of her.”
Setting aside the fact that Parker’s character very quickly meets her untimely demise, thus concluding this glorious short, I humbly request an entire Stephanie Boucher cinematic universe: What happens when this character is drunk and high? When she’s drunk and dancing? When she’s drunk and on the phone with AppleCare? Can Mary-Louise Parker as Stephanie Boucher have her own episode of Drunk History? Preferably she’ll be explaining the Mueller investigation, Donald Trump, and Russian collusion.
Red Sparrow takes itself very seriously, and that’s fine. But in between all the sex, death, and skin grafts, there’s Parker’s performance, showier and more fun than Jennifer Lawrence in that unauthorized Casino sequel (more commonly known as American Hustle). The added bonus is that it all seems entirely of Parker’s devising. If there’s any justice in the world, Red Sparrow will be remembered not for its nudity or its torture, but for a truly extraordinary few minutes where Mary-Louise Parker does whatever the hell she wants.