Review by Dan Skip Allen
Jennifer Lawrence had the most meteoric rise I've seen of any recent movie star in Hollywood. When she popped on the scene with a gritty and raw performance in Winter's Bone, she caught everyone's eye, including producers and casting directors in Hollywood. She jumped on a couple of big franchises and every good role she could find until, finally, she was burnt out from Hollywood and being a big star. She took some time off and is now back in Causeway, an A24 and Apple Original film.
Lynsey (Jennifer Lawrence) is a US Soldier recovering from a traumatic experience in Afghanistan during her time over there. She returns home to New Orleans, where she grew up, to try to regain her mind and body from what happened to her. She moves in with her mother and finds a job as a pool cleaner. While getting her life back together, she meets a man named James (Brian Tyree Henry, Eternals), who has his own traumatic experience in his past.
This film is a two-hander with the friendship between Lawrence and Henry's characters at the forefront of the movie. There are a couple of supporting roles for Jayne Houdyshell as a caregiver of Lawrence's character at the beginning of the film, Linda Emond as Lawrence's character's mother, and Stephen McKinley as Dr. Lucas, the man who has the future of Lawrence's character in his hands. Most of the cast does a good job in this movie with an important story.
That being said, Lila Neugebauer, the director, doesn't do anything too dramatic with this story or its characters. She keeps the film and story a little too subtle, whereas other movies about a similar subject matter are depicted more dramatically. Lawrence showed in her award-winning performance in Silver Linings Playbook that she is capable of better in her career. She usually brings drama to all the characters she plays. This time, she's just too quiet and generic, and it doesn't do the role much justice. Henry is pretty strong in his role, though.
Causeway wants to say a lot about PTSD, and it falls short of that. It just doesn't bring the heat where it is needed. Lawrence seems like she's going through the paces in this role. She's capable of so much more. The director couldn't get anything out of her in this role. She might as well have stayed on the bench if this is going to be what she gives audiences. This should have been a powerful performance, and it's not, and the film as a whole fails because of that. Even Henry couldn't save it with his performance. Without Lawrence's full commitment, this film failed to hit the dramatic moments it needed to be effective as a good piece of cinema.
Causeway is now in theaters and hits Apple TV+ on November 4.