“Vodka,” demands Stephanie Boucher as she saunters up to the hotel bar. Clad with aviators and a pastel pink peacoat, the businesswoman glances around the bar with the cumbersome demeanor of a drunk white lady who you can tell is inaudibly mumbling to herself. Played by Mary-Louise Parker, Stephanie Boucher is not only the best part of Jennifer Lawrence’s new movie Red Sparrow, but she’s also my new favorite queer movie characterpossibly ever. Sorry, Lucy Diamond. (Caution: Spoilers ahead).
Red Sparrow tells the story of Dominika (Lawrence), a prima ballerina who becomes a spy after being blackmailed by the Russian government. Boucher is the queer and compromised Chief of Staff to a United States senator. The movie is about as intense and gratuitously disturbing as a movie can get, and is completely devoid of humoruntil Mary-Louise Parker is introduced. Her character is the sole moment of much needed caustic respite in this absolute void of a movie.
Dominika finds out about her roommate Marta’s (Thekla Reuten) lesbian relationship with Stephanie via a series of reconnaissance photos where Stephanie is sipping chardonnay and sprawling her legs over Marta, another Russian spy. Normally, I’d feel sorry for Stephanie, whose sexuality is being exploited for kompromat–but she’s a tough bitch, which is what makes her character so magnetic.
Marta recruits Stephanie as an informant, and she agrees to funnel U.S. intelligence to her lover in exchange for $250,000. Boucher dominates every room she’s inshe’s like an inebriated mom at a block party, swaying and maudlin with every word she mutters into her pinot. After Marta is suddenly killed, Dominika steps in to complete the mission and meets Stephanie at a hotel bar. Though initially spooked by Dominika’s lengthy harangue on why Stephanie should trust her instead of Marta, she eventually slurs, “Where do they find you people?” She then follows Dominika into a suite where another Russian man awaits.
In the hotel room, Stephanie orders the grumbly Russian man around, commanding, “Pour me a drink, will ya, Boris?” followed by, “Why don’t you give me a real pour, huh Boris?” Parker’s candor and delivery is masterful, a skill she perfected in the 2000s during her romp as Nancy Botwin in Weeds. While she’s played queer before in both Weeds and When We Rise, I feel like I’ve waited a lifetime to see her play this drunk, gay bitch. Actually, her portrayal of Nancy Botwin is the reason I love this new Red Sparrow character so damn muchWeeds fans will recognize Stephanie as Nancy at her slurriest and cuntiest, which we all know is the best Nancy.
During the meeting, Stephanie throws out other drunken quips like, “Being in a room with me is of fucking value,” or insisting she’s not throwing her country under the bus because she’s some embarrassing “ideologue” or “pacifist.” Nah, Stephanie Boucher is in this for the lesbian sex and money, which quite frankly was the most interesting and feminist part of Red Sparrowthe movie came clad with eight sexual assault scenes (I counted) that were tough to get through.
Her greatest moment was when she playfully asks Boris, “Why are Russian women so sexy?” Holding for a pregnant pause, then hitting the punchline, “All the men look like toads.” This queer queen is always cussing, spilling her vodka, smoking cigarettes, and swaying in the wind, and I was here for it. From the moment we first meet Stephanie at an embassy mixer, where she puffs her cigarette then sensually slides it between Marta’s lips, to her last moments when she cackles at her purse full of a quarter of a million dollars, I was head over heels for this messy MILF.
Unfortunately, our new Mom falls victim to the Bury Your Gays trope when she’s abruptly and violently wrecked by a carwhich was actually unsurprising, given the ways in which women were and brutalized and disposed of in this movie. Mary-Louise Parker gave the best performance in the filmI’m just mad this brilliant character was wasted in a tertiary role.
Red Sparrow would’ve been better off had it only followed the trials and tribulations of Stephanie Boucher, the lesbian Chief of Staff turned compromised Russian informant, as she slayed Russian women and made out like a bandit. Her aviators and white wine aesthetic will have to tide me over while I steady pray for a prequel. With that being said, Red Sparrow is worth the watchif you’re in it for the right reasons, the reasons being: Mary-Louise Parker, supporting high-stakes lesbian scams, and J-Law’s iconic blonde wig, which I want to brush delicately.