So I want to preface this by saying that I love Jennifer Lawrence and everything she does* so I was ready to love this movie. I love spies! I love dubious Russian accents! I love spurious reasons to introduce sexual content!
But, readers, I did *not* love this film.
Be ye warned, there are some spoilers ahead.
I could see how the story of an injured ballerina (could anything be more Russian??) turned sexxxy spy could offer something of an empowerment narrative, or at least one that could offer a critique of the world around us, but if that was what I was hoping for, ladies and gentlemen, sadly it was not what I was given.
- Here come the spoilers
I began to realise what I had come to when my girl Jen was being violently raped what
felt like not yet twenty minutes in to the movie. All of the men with whom she is involved are either violent to her, or very age-inappropriate, or both.
There is one moment in which she takes off all of her clothes in front of a room of people as a power-play, and on its own this moment had a point to make about assault and desire (namely that they have no relation to one another – it’s all about power), but there was something deeply unpleasant about watching a film in which she was stripped naked (or nearly naked) for the rapes/attempted rapes three times, but the one time her character engages in consensual sex she does so not only wearing a vest but also (inexplicably, to me) her underpants.
Instead of offering a critique on the way that young women are used as sexual bait, or developing on the glimmer of exploration of the power-dynamic inherent in coercion, it felt like these assaults and violations, and the tortures that followed, were offered instead to us for consumption. And we weren’t just consuming sex, we were consuming the “evilness” of modern Russia, which needed to be infiltrated and “fixed” by America. One character made a throwaway comment of America being maybe not all it’s hammed up to be, but the logic of the film’s narrative says otherwise.
Essentially, it was like an episode of Archer with no jokes: unconvincing Russian accents, double agents everywhere, misogyny and torture (here, without irony) and (despite a 2017 timestamp in a piece of film) a nebulous time period that blends cold war with now.
Sad to say, would not recommend.
*(even if she did refuse to consider that there were some troubling reasons that she felt sexy and powerful in a naked dress and men feel sexy and powerful in nice warm coats, because you do not have to be a “perfect feminist” to be allowed to decide to be cold to feel sexy within the parameters of this broken world)