The more you think about Red Sparrow, the better it gets. There’s so much to be transfixed by: It’s more bonkers than Mother! It’s more fun than Bright. And right in the middle of a super-serious spy movie (one that seems perfectly timed to both Russian collusion and the #MeToo movement) is a very worthy short film starring Mary-Louise Parker. This is the movie that tasks Charlotte Rampling with teaching a master class in the art of fellatio. True, its ending thoroughly confused me — it’s basically one scene after another of “You heard she gon’ do what from who? That’s not a reliable source” — but no matter. Business mixes with pleasure in Red Sparrow, and pleasure mixes with … whatever the hell is going on with Jennifer Lawrence’s bangs.
Not since Henry Cavill’s Justice League mustache or Kylo Ren’s oiled-up chest has an otherwise normal (or even canonical) character’s aesthetic choice been so thoroughly curious. As Russian sex spy Dominika Egorova, Jennifer Lawrence has a lot of hair, and that hair is doing a lot in every single scene. For the first third of the film, Lawrence’s natural blonde hair is tucked under a Hermione Granger–in–Sorcerer’s Stone wig. (Somewhere, Dakota Johnson and her sleek Fifty Shades bangs are having a good little chuckle.) When she’s just a regular old ash-brunette with massive bangs, the movie’s plot remains on stable ground, and things make a sort of vague sense. But then, to better seduce her American target Nate Nash (Joel Edgerton), Dominika gets her roommate and fellow sparrow Marta (Thekla Reuten) to bleach her hair blonde. An important red flag is that Marta squeezes the bleach into her bare hands, which I’m pretty sure is not how hair dyeing works. It cannot be a coincidence that this is precisely when things go off the rails, plot-wise.
But Red Sparrow’s real achievement is how recklessly it treats any sense of bang continuity. Overwhelmed by the movie’s sexual violence? Swept away in a monsoon of nonsensical and disparate plot details? Focus instead on how freely and giddily Red Sparrow changes the fullness of Dominika’s bangs. There’s the regular blonde wig with loose curls and totally reasonable bangs. There’s the ultra-bright peroxide-blonde wig with bangs that are borderline feathered; they play prominently in the scene where Dominika begs a boyish bank teller to help her open an account, and pop up again after sex with Nash. (Absolutely no surveillance can happen when these bangs are in play, because they’re long enough to get caught in our heroine’s inch-long eyelashes.) There are also what appear to be clip-in bangs, which add an angular severity to a sleek ponytail, like when Dominika is swapping five floppy disks full of state secrets for five floppy disks not full of state secrets, and she manages to not give her computer a virus from 1997.
Though Red Sparrow itself never achieves any sort of narrative continuity, these bangs are a feat of silent acting and world-building. Observe:
The Blunt Bangs (Feat. Two Tentacles)
Every American Girl doll I once fiercely loved, took to that bougie doll store, and eventually outgrew is shaking. Miss Dominika took a photo of Molly McIntyre to the salon and said “именно это,” or, “exactly this.”
The Borderline-Feathered Bangs
Here are those too-thick, too-long peroxide bangs. One morning after sex with Nate Nash, these babies obstruct Dominika’s eyeline so intensely they need their own cord shades.
The Disappearing Bangs
Adding to Red Sparrow’s intrigue: how these blonde bangs are suddenly disappeared. As Dominika spies on her target, the bangs go bye-bye, which further fuels speculation that it’s nearly impossible to get any worthwhile observation done with fur resting on one’s forehead.
The Borderline-Feathered Bangs, Remixed
The bang-wig situation works better when Dominika rests her mane on one shoulder. Here’s a scene where some real double crossing can occur, as Dominika lies to her uncle, a high-ranking government official that also wants to kiss her.
The Nice, Normal Bangs (Feat. Serena van der Woodsen Curls)
Finally! That reasonably blonde wig with reasonably trimmed bangs. Bangs suited for geopolitical espionage, a bar brawl, and to contend with Mary-Louise Parker.