Jennifer Lawrence: Five Essential Films

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In celebration of this week’s release, mother!, Ben and Kyle sat down to review five of their essential Jennifer Lawrence films. While they may not be her “best”, these were a few of her films that the guys thought were essential to her filmography.

Winter’s Bone

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BEN: I seem to remember seeing this movie at some point and liking it.  It is also one of her earliest works, a story about survival, instinct, hope, and finally courage.  I thought it was important to include it on the list because it really defines the types of roles she would be selected for going forward.  As I mentioned, I barely remember the film, but as I write this, the cinematography is coming back to my mind along with Jennifer Lawrence’s performance.  I will definitely check it out again.

Along these same lines, I would very much like to see Jodie Foster’s The Beaver, which Lawrence starred in after Winter’s Bone.  It’s going on the list, Kyle.

KYLE:  This is my favorite performance of Lawrence’s.  Just an outstanding, low-fi crime thriller with a ton of heart.  Her performance is so understated, desperate, and yet full of courage.  Her scenes with John Hawkes are pure lightning and it was a pleasure to see them both get nominated.  Lawrence display here that she is an actress that can command our hearts as much as our attention.  I also think, outside of mother!, this is the best film she’s ever participated in.  Absolutely brutal, and yet endearing, this is essential viewing.

X-Men:  First Class

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BEN: Lawrence’s performance as Mystique was absolutely sublime in that it conveys her sense of survival, instinct and ultimately, courage.  Even as a villain, she conveyed a sense of duty and honor, something that worked in her character’s favor.

I’d love to talk more about Matthew Vaughn next week, Kyle because his direction here is one of the reasons why Lawrence’s performance was as good as it was.  The story and the characters, all of which we’d seen in previous iterations of X-Men were revitalized.

KYLE: Agreed.  She does a good job with what she has, despite the two leads being the focus.  I think the reason this is on the list, for me, is that it demonstrates her ability to support without stealing focus and displays her ability to mine depth in roles that would otherwise be overlooked because they are “sidekicks” or non-essential to the plot.

The Hunger Games

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BEN: Lawrence’s two previously mentioned performances truly were in preparation for Katniss Everdeen.  The YA novel focused on a dystopian future where Gladiator-style battles defined entertainment and survival.  Lawrence’s performance here reminded me of Schwarzenegger’s performance in The Running Man, determined desperation.  Lawrence just shined here.

KYLE: That’s an interesting parallel!  I got more a Red Dawn vibe with a psychological twist.  My favorite thing, apart from Lawrence’s unbridled anger at the system, is how she dances between cold blooded killer, traumatized symbol, and hopeful leader within each film.  Her Katniss clearly understands the stakes and the depths of the horror of combat, and yet always tries to remain hopeful.  As someone who appreciated the trilogy, I was pleased to see her bring them to completion, with her final scene with Donald Sutherland being my absolute favorite of the series.

American Hustle

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BEN: I have to say that this is the first movie where Lawrence really came into my subconscious.  I haven’t seen it since it was released in theaters, but I know David O. Russell’s ability to corral an ensemble cast is second to none.  I haven’t seen Silver Linings Playbook all the way through, but what I’ve seen of it and her performance, I’m not surprised that we got the caliber movie we did in Hustle.  Lawrence’s performance here reminded me of Sharon Stone’s in Casino (similar time and setting).  The most important thing is that it looked like Lawrence genuinely had fun making this movie.  I guess I need to revisit it.

Along these same lines, I need to make a point to watch Joy which I hear she absolutely makes the movie what it is.

KYLE: Great comparison with Stone.  I got those vibes as well.  This is definitely the most fun she’s had in a performance and while I’m not sure if garnered the Oscar nom, it was a ton of fun to experience.  She fits well into the ensemble dynamic as you mention, but it’s her on again, off again chemistry with Bale that really drives everything home.

Passengers

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BEN: Late last year saw the release of this film, which at the time I said “its ambition steeped in Titanic.  Instead, its Lost in Space meets ‘The Love Boat’ with all the drama that [sic] entails.”  I’ve since had a chance to reflect on the film and my analysis still stands, but Lawrence was an amazing asset on the film and Chris Pratt really helped to push the relationship despite the less than idea story.

Silver Linings Playbook

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KYLE: I haven’t seen Passengers, but I wanted to circle back to Silver Linings Playbook.  As a social worker, I love this film and I love her approach to the material.  Some complain about how it downplays depression and other mental illnesses; however, I think it has a remarkably human and fresh approach to the subject matter.  Lawrence’s performance is genuine and heartfelt and it was amazing to see her work recognized.

BEN: Thanks for speaking with me, Kyle.  I’m getting a kick out of revisiting all of these films and, of course adding new films to my watch list.

KYLE: Same here!  Looking forward to our next discussion!

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