Jennifer Lawrence is one of the biggest superstars on the planet right now, deemed by many as the next Meryl Streep; she’s already been nominated for four Oscars at the young age of 27, meaning that she has 31 years to catch up to Streep’s current number of 20 nominations — a task not too unthinkable.
Looking back at her career, Lawrence has surprisingly fewer notable appearances than one may first expect — perhaps a reminder of how young she is. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing because each performance is one that sticks, whether because of her immense talent, showcased in films such as Silver Linings Playbook and Winter’s Bone, or because she’s already cemented herself as a big franchise A-lister with leading roles in X-Men and The Hunger Games.
With Darren Aronofsky’s mother! releasing this Friday, Lawrence will only remind those that sadly and systemically undervalue her that she’s not going anywhere. She’s not the next Meryl Streep because she’s the only Jennifer Lawrence. And while this list may not host as many hot takes as others, it’s a rightful celebration of an undeniable talent.
5. The Hunger Games
In The Hunger Games, Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) captures the fascination of the public, but in a slightly meta twist, Lawrence herself catapulted to the broader public’s radar. By then she had already been nominated for Best Lead Actress for her work in Winter’s Bone, but with The Hunger Games, Lawrence established herself as a heroine for the ages — the highest grossing action film heroine, to be precise. But don’t let the memory of Barnes and Noble’s endless supply of Katniss merch sully the performance Lawrence gives in the first Hunger Games film. She gives us a heroine who’s vulnerable and sympathetic, but never lets that get in the way of being a badass. Amid the flood of YA novel adaptations that descended upon cinemas in the wake of The Hunger Games, Lawrence’s turn as Katniss shows that the phenomenon began and ended with her undeniably strong performance.
— Harrison Tunggal
David O. Russell’s Joy is a bit of an unengaging slog, but Jennifer Lawrence isn’t one of the reasons why. In fact, she’s the only reason why the film is watchable in the first place. She embraces and envelops herself in the dynamic familial conflict and vulnerability of the character of Joy — a young inventor and businesswoman who builds a dynasty — reacting with a quiet energy and taking charge with such lively fervor; we almost feel the line “never… speak… on my behalf… about my business… again” in our bones, each brief pause breathing with badassery. She may not dive as deep into the mentality of the character as she does in performances ranked higher, but her utterly firm and assured commitment to the role reverberates off the screen.
— Kyle Kizu
3. Winter’s Bone
The performance that started the hype around her talents, Winter’s Bone was a tiny little indie that did significantly better than anyone would have expected, largely in part due to Lawrence’s captivating leading character. Set in the rural Ozarks, Winter’s Bone features Lawrence as a 17-year-old tasked with taking care of her mentally ill mother and her two younger siblings within a financially destitute family that is being threatened to have their housed foreclosed on since her meth-addicted father put the house up for bail. And he, for reasons waiting to be discovered in this twisty film, has yet to make his court date.
What’s so immediate about this film’s portrayal of this kind of life is both Lawrence and director Debra Granik’s refusal to allow stereotypes to percolate into the story. There’s an authenticity to the sadness, the courage and, ultimately, the hope Lawrence brings to this young heroine. One could immediately see the star power that Lawrence possesses, which has only been further proven in each film since.
— Levi Hill
2. American Hustle
Bat-shit crazy Jennifer Lawrence is the best Jennifer Lawrence: so it is written.
As Rosalyn Rosenfeld in American Hustle, Lawrence injects what could have been a stereotypical “wronged, manipulative wife” role with charisma, intensity and a touch of true malice. In one memorable scene, Christian Bale’s character calls his wife “the Picasso of passive-aggressive karate.” She does indeed spend a good portion of the film attempting to sway events through careful manipulation, but when the dam breaks, no one throws a tantrum like Lawrence. And for what it’s worth, just overcoming the sheer extravagance of American Hustle’s costuming was a feat for all involved— from that slinky white gown to her teased blond updo, it’s a noteworthy accomplishment that the most “extra” thing in the film was Lawrence herself.
— Kate Halliwell
1. Silver Linings Playbook
While Jennifer Lawrence was already an Oscar nominated actress with seemingly endless potential at such a young age, it was really 2012 that catapulted her into super stardom and the charts of Best Actresses Working Today. Between The Hunger Games and Silver Linings Playbook, any actor could claim they owned the year. Leading a massive franchise and the biggest crowd-pleasing prestige film is quite the accomplishment, yet it’s her performance in that second film, David O. Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook, that stands as her best performance in her already acclaimed career. With the premise of the film centered around deeply flawed people, Lawrence plays Tiffany, a young widow who battles depression and is ostracized in her town for having casual sex with many of the men in it after her husband’s passing. While the film rests on Bradley Cooper’s shoulders, who convincingly plays the manic-depressive Pat Solitano, Jr., Lawrence steals the show. Given almost equal weight in this tight balancing act of mental-issues-drama with dysfunctional family comedy, without Lawrence’s performance — which gives off bubbly optimism and a cold cynicism — the movie may not have had its silver lining.
— Levi Hill
Featured image via Paramount.