Jennifer Lawrence’s latest film role is the most revealing, challenging and violent of her career to date, but it also sees her reclaim something that was cruelly stolen from her four years ago.
In Red Sparrow (in cinemas March 1), Lawrence plays Russian prima ballerina Dominika Egorova, forced to become a spy after a brutal injury prevents her from performing and paying her sick mother’s medical bills.
The twist: Dominika becomes a particular kind of spy known as a Sparrow, an exceptionally attractive and skilled young person trained to use their body to seduce the enemy.
In a nutshell, Dominika must complete months of what she calls (in Lawrence’s dubious Russian accent) “whore school”, stripping off to have sex in front of entire classrooms and learning the art of seduction.
The film’s multiple nude scenes are out of character for the 27-year-old star, who has kept her body fiercely under wraps since her private intimate photos were stolen and leaked in a 2014 mass iCloud hack.
Signing on to do Red Sparrow, which also has several confronting moments of sexual violence, was Lawrence’s attempt to get naked – on her own terms.
“Red Sparrow scared the hell out of me,” Lawrence told Vanity Fair.
“My biggest fear was that people would say, ‘Oh, how can you complain about the hack if you’re going to get nude anyway?’
“One is my choice. I got something back that was taken from me, and it also felt normal.”
Watch our video review of Red Sparrow
Despite having a running time of two hours and 20 minutes, Red Sparrow is tightly edited and gripping throughout – if a little heavy on the torture scenes.
It was torturous to film too – based on a fictional book by former CIA officer Jason Matthews, the movie required Lawrence to adopt a strict diet and work with a ballet coach for three months.
“Red Sparrow was the first time that I was really hungry, and disciplined. I can’t be in character as an ex-ballerina and not feel like an ex-ballerina,” Lawrence told Vanity Fair.
“I remember having a meltdown, freaking out that I had eaten five banana chips.”
The discipline paid off – Lawrence not only looks incredible in the film, she has a kind of ferocity to her that makes two particularly violent scenes, both of which take place in a shower, even more jarring.
Plus, she and her Australian co-star Joel Edgerton – who can always be relied upon to deliver a solid performance – share so much chemistry it’s sparked rumours they’re dating off-screen.
Lawrence made headlines while promoting the film by wearing a revealing Versace dress to a photocall while her male co-stars were rugged up for the London cold.
In her response, Lawrence said she was outraged by the furore surrounding the dress and angered by the suggestion it wasn’t her choice to wear it.
Happily for her, this unapologetically erotic, violent movie makes that plunging gown look like child’s play. Behold, the era of JLaw 2.0.