I’m a little confused by the Jennifer Lawrence truthers who insist that everything the actress does is calculated to win fans, from her relatable persona to her infamously clumsy Oscars fall. If J.Law put such a premium on plotting, would she really follow up the baby-eating, Cinemascore-busting Mother! with Red Sparrow, a chilly espionage thriller about rape scenes, unrealistic hair continuity, and off-putting skin-graft tools used as torture devices? This is not how you grow a fan base that would prefer to see you saving Peeta’s incompetent ass in PG-13 situations.
While watching Red Sparrow, perhaps the biggest clue that we’re not in Panem anymore comes a little ways into the movie, when 72-year-old Charlotte Rampling appears as the teacher of the world’s most fucked-up sex-ed class. Employed to train a group of Russian hotties in the fine art of the blow job, Rampling boasts the hauteur of Tilda Swinton and the unmade face of Alicia Keys, and she introduces herself to J.Law’s coerced spy by saying, “You will know me as Matron,” a line clearly flagged by Madonna’s team to be sampled in a future remix. Meet your new instructor!
Let’s talk about Rampling and her scenes for a little bit, because they are wild. On J.Law’s first day at the place she not-so-affectionately comes to call “whore school,” Matron calls her to the front of the class to strip alongside a compact li’l cutie who looks like Josh Hutcherson, which has got to be triggering for our gal. J.Law is hesitant to take her clothes off, but Russian J.Hutch is all too eager: Before you can say “Here’s my full-frontal moment in a big Hollywood movie, Mom and Dad,” he’s Fassbender-ing it up, and Matron is left scowling at the sex-negative lady-student by his side.
When the Russian government gives her a politician they need dirt on, Matron can figure out exactly which kink they should leverage for access, and she trains her hard-bodied spies to go out there and do her bidding. It’s sexual sudoku, though the conclusions are sometimes a little confusing: Matron thinks nearly every issue can be solved by a coerced, passion-free beej, but would a gay politico really let one of Matron’s female sparrows suck him off just because she had a Michelle Williams pixie cut? And is it wise of Matron to encourage a nearly raped J.Law to aggressively come onto her attacker and then taunt him when he is unable to seal the deal? I suspect most therapists would beg to differ with that technique, but most therapists are not Matron, the Mary Sue character Camille Paglia would have written into a Jennifer Lawrence fanfic.
So next time people accuse our Oscar winner of cynically playing it safe, please remind them that Red Sparrow asked Katniss to get her ta-tas out for Charlotte Rampling in Mads Mikkelsen drag, and it was highly upsetting and fascinating all at once. I’m not sure it’s the career path I would have picked for her, but I’d rather not risk Matron’s withering stare by suggesting otherwise.