Lila Neugebauer directed. Starring: Russell Harvard, Linda Emond, Jayne Houdyshell, Stephen McKinley Henderson, and Jennifer Lawrence. 94 minutes and 15.
Jennifer Lawrence, the actor, is not the subject of Causeway. However, it also acts as a metaphor for Lawrence herself in its own peculiar way. A young woman blows up in it, however in a war rather than in Hollywood, and then has to pick up the bits. The Chris Pratt space romance Passengers and the masterful-yet-detested biblical allegory Mother! met with Lawrence's tremendous celebrity in 2018, forcing her to take a self-imposed career vacation. This is Lawrence's first true leading role since then. It was simple to forget how skilled she is at being quiet with all that noise. In her film Causeway, filmmaker Lila Neugebauer dwells on the subtle facial changes and diminishing sorrow of her star. Since her part in the 2010 neo-western Winter's Bone, in which she became a star, we haven't seen this side of Lawrence. It feels like coming home.
Lawrence is Lynsey, a US military engineer who has just barely survived an explosion in Afghanistan and has now returned to her native New Orleans. She meets James (Atlanta's Brian Tyree Henry), a similarly tormented mechanic who fixes her mother's car when it breaks down, in between cleaning pools and playing a memory game to ease the consequences of a brain injury. They socialise. They light up. They gradually reveal their individual traumas. Lynsey is unsure of what to do with herself but knows she must go back to her military position, no matter the cost.
That’s... regarding it Causeway isn't always opposed to plots. The script, co-credited to novelist Ottessa Moshfegh at her most typically dejected, has a traditional three-act format and includes an incident that serves as the catalyst for a last-minute threat to the budding bond between Lynsey and James. But other from that, it lacks flourishes and instead settles into a soft, subtle rhythm where old conflicts simmer ambiguously rather than erupt.
Neugebauer, a first-time feature director with a theatre background, could have made her debut a lot more showy than it is (scenes set in Afghanistan reportedly weren't used), but she often cuts to the chase: Causeway has two extraordinarily talented performers at its centre and knows they're who you want to see.
Lawrence is excellent in this scene; he is worn out, worried, yet amazingly unfazed. Henry, on the other hand, is a sea of bottled grief. About halfway through Causeway, there is a moment where James talks about the event that caused him to lose his leg, although few specifics or the horrible digressions it caused are really said. Instead, Henry gives each quiet space in James's story the impression of a sledgehammer.
But more than anything, Causeway has a conversational sense with its star actress. Lawrence was so close to achieving the kind of notoriety that would have destroyed any pretence of transition in an actor's performance; where you would have been merely seeing a famous person wearing a wig or donning an accent for effect. With the exception of a part in the polarising asteroid comedy Don't Look Up last year, Lawrence has taken a self-imposed break since the pulpy spy thriller Red Sparrow of 2018 and looks to have regained her feet. Her performance represents a return to the nuanced naturalism that initially garnered her so much praise; it makes nods to both her past and her potential future. Causeway is a movie that, as a whole, feels a little underwhelming and is unlikely to get Lawrence any major praise. However, it might be the most significant film she ever makes.
Starting on September 4, "Causeway" will be available for streaming on Apple TV Plus and in some theatres.
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