This post originally appeared in Nicolas D. Sampson’s Gems.
Jennifer Lawrence is America’s new sweetheart. Over the past three years, the young actress from Louisville, Kentucky, has managed to rise from ignominy to stardom, claiming the spotlight.
One can see why. She is hot. She is sweet. She has charm, coming across as easygoing and fun. She has a brain and knows how to use it, complementing that fun side of hers with acumen.
Above all, she is a great actress, injecting spirit to her performances. There is something disarmingly honest about her craft, winning over audiences, peers, crews, and studios with ease.
The movie that put her on the map was Winter’s Bone, a bleak and atmospheric movie based on Daniel Woodrell‘s novel by the same name. In it she played Ree Dolly, a young girl taking care of her mentally unstable mom and two younger siblings in the Ozark Mountains.
A great movie and an inspired performance. There was something special about this actress, and I was looking forward to seeing more of her.
Funnily enough, the next movie I saw her in, X-Men: First Class, I didn’t recognize her. She played Raven Darkhölme / Mystique, spending half her role painted blue, while during the other half she was done up like a doll. A far cry from Ree, the gruff-looking Ozark girl.
The casting directors did their homework and clinched Lawrence for the role. And the movie caught fire.
Then came The Hunger Games, a movie based on the book series by Suzanne Collins. I had read the books before seeing the movie and been smitten by the main character, Katniss Everdeen. She was courageous, loyal, tenacious, willing to sacrifice herself to save her loved ones, eager to survive, yanked from a poor district town and thrown into a life-or-death situation… a lot like Ree Dolly, only with more glamour and sex-appeal. And crazy Capitolites hooked on live TV and glorified death.
The casting directors did their homework. They clinched Lawrence for the role. And the movie caught fire (wink wink). The Hunger Games became one of the greatest hits of the year, combining youthful sensationalism with a compelling story line. It is a modern-day version of Theseus, in which twelve Districts dance to the tunes of a glitzy Capitol and its entertainment industry. Something like the First World, the Second and the Third. Or NYC, the boroughs, and the upstate counties. The allegory works on many levels and is open to interpretation.
The franchise is solid and growing in popularity. With the sequels in the pipeline, based on Books Two (Catching Fire) and Three (Mockinjay), it seems poised to become what The Matrix was to the previous decade.
It could have been all downhill from there for Lawrence. Entering the A-list and starring in CGI-based blockbusters is always dangerous for a talented thespian. Money and glitz have a way of eroding talent.
But the girl from Louisville kept her sights on the target. She starred in a few smaller films, keeping it real, before landing the leading female role in David O. Russel‘s new movie, Silver Linings Playbook. In it she played Tiffany, a young bipolar woman struggling to come to terms with her husband’s death, alongside Pat (Bradley Cooper), a fellow bipolar neighbor, trying to come to terms with his broken marriage.
The rest is history. Lawrence won the Oscar for Best Actress in a Leading Role, confirming those who believed in her that she truly had what it took to make it to the top, not just at the box office but also in people’s hearts.
She’s also great offstage, with the crazy press.
May the odds be ever in her favor.