Jennifer Lawrence has addressed the sexism elements that led to the critical trashing of her 2016 disappointment Passengers. Since her Oscar nomination for the 2010 backwoods thriller Winter's Bone, Lawrence's career has been on fire with monster hits like The Hunger Games saga, three more Oscar nods (which resulted in one win, for Best Actress for Silver Linings Playbook) and few career missteps. While she's been been a part of films that have not exactly been hits with critics (see X-Men: Apocalypse), she's rarely been called out for criticism for a film that she had a had a lead role in.
That all changed last year when critics took exception to Passengers, a sci-fi adventure starring Lawrence and Chris Pratt as the solo leads. Ending up with an aggregate 31 percent "rotten" score from Rotten Tomatoes, Passengers was supposed to be a romance but came off as something much different thanks to a crucial moment in the film's plot.
The film follows a space-bound colonization ship loaded with thousands of passengers who were meant to be in suspended animation until they reached the end of their 120-year voyage. But after a ship malfunction awakes Pratt's character, Jim, 90 years early, he gets desperate facing the thought of spending the rest of his life alone. As a result, he purposefully wakes up Aurora (Lawrence), making her believe that the same malfunction triggered her early awakening. Their relationship eventually develops into a romance, but Jim is saddled with the guilt that the relationship was built on a lie. Critics didn't respond to the idea too kindly, dubbing the film things like “profoundly creepy” and “an interstellar version of social-media stalking.”
In an interview with Vogue, Lawrence says that while she's "proud" of Passengers, she's upset with herself for not looking "deeper" into the potential implications of sexism, if not worse, into the plot:
“I’m disappointed in myself that I didn’t spot it. I thought the script was beautiful — it was this tainted, complicated love story. It definitely wasn’t a failure. I’m not embarrassed by it by any means. There was just stuff that I wished I’d looked into deeper before jumping on.”
Apparently Lawrence wasn't the only one to overlook the film's major flaw. In an interview with EW in April, producer Neal Moritz said there were no apparent issues brought up by viewers during test screenings, but everything changed 10 days before the first reviews of the film came out:
"The reviewer said that we were justifying date rape, and I was like, what? I thought back to all the screenings that we had and nobody had ever thought that, but it was weird. One guy said that and a lot of media picked up on that and it became the mantra that the film carried, and I thought it was a really unfair thing because I think it’s a beautiful film I couldn’t be more proud of.”
While Lawrence and Moritz continue to defend Passengers (despite its criticisms, it still made $303 million worldwide), fans should appreciate the fact that they're admitting that there was a huge blunder with the film that should have merited a second look before the final cut was locked in. Lawrence suggested introducing her character earlier in the film (and perhaps that she was truly awakened in the same manner as Pratt's character), which would have gone a long way into curing the film's ills; but unfortunately hindsight is 20/20 and she, Moritz, Pratt and company will simply have to live with the criticism that was leveled upon the movie.
If anything, the principals involved with Passengers have learned a valuable lesson about keeping their eye on the ball throughout the entire filmmaking process start to finish - one that will ultimately serve their talents as actors and filmmakers, and the audiences in terms of quality entertainment.