Jennifer Lawrence: From Worst to First

Posted Wed Aug 15, 2012 at 01:30 PM PDT by

by Aaron Peck

I, like a lucky few, had my first experience with Jennifer Lawrence at the Sundance Film Festival when she burst onto the scene with a little movie called 'Winter's Bone.' It was easy to see she had the makings of a well-respected leading lady in Hollywood.

Looking over Lawrence's filmography, her career is still young, but she's already one of the most popular actresses in the business. I was surprised by her confession on 'The Hunger Games' special feature where she announced that she was totally planning on doing indie movies her entire career. Couldn't you see her as a much more serious version of Parker Posey? Her star rose fast though, and before she knew it she was starring in big budget movies. I'm sure she quickly forgave herself once she discovered the kind of fame and fortune those types of franchises produce. We forgave her too, since she never really lost her indie flair.

As of right now Lawrence only has starred in seven notable film releases. She has at least five other projects (including the sequels to 'X-Men: First Class' and 'The Hunger Games) in various stages of production. Since her filmography lacks the requisite number of movies to do a Top 5 / Bottom 5 article, we decided to rank them from worst to first, although, she hasn't had many "bad" movies. This is one of those rankings where it's more like "Fairly Good to First."

7. 'The Burning Plain'


It wasn't lacking talent. With Charlize Theron, Kim Basinger, John Corbett, Robin Tunney, and Lawrence, this was one of those films where you looked at the cast and said, it's got to be good. Too bad writer/director Guillermo Arriaga felt like he had to clog the screenplay and visuals with far too much symbolism for his own good. It's a pretty confusing, and often, tiresome film. It's heaviness bogs down an otherwise very capable ensemble cast (Note: To be fair, fellow High-Def Digest reviewer M. Enois Duarte gave the movie a very favorable score in his Blu-ray review).

6. 'The Beaver'


Okay, everybody take a deep breath and say it with me one more time, "Finally!"

I never really bought into the whole, "Mel Gibson Talking to a Beaver" gimmick so 'The Beaver' never really resonated with me. While that was the main draw for the film I felt like the real reason to watch were the performances surround Gibson's like Lawrence, Yelchin, and Jodie Foster.

5. 'The Poker House'


This is actually a small movie you might never have heard of, but it has a few good performances from young actresses. You'll be able to see a strong performance by Selma Blair, a subtly commanding performance from Lawrence, and a young Chloe Grace Moretz showing what she's capable of as an actress. The movie's drawback is that it's an auto-biographical tale courtesy of actress-turned-director Lori Petty, so the movie tends to wander around aimlessly instead of staying focused.

4. 'Like Crazy'


If you haven't seen 'Like Crazy' then you should. Although I will warn people that don't like quirky indie romantic comedies that this movie may not be for them. This is another movie that took Sundance by storm. Lawrence isn't the main star here, as the movie focuses more on the characters played by Anton Yelchin and Felicity Jones, but it's still a movie worth seeing if you like her work.

3. 'The Hunger Games'


When people were throwing around their guesses for 'Hunger Games' casting once the project was announced I immediately thought Lawrence would be the perfect choice for Katniss and I'd never even read the books. I was simply going off of the characteristics my wife had told me. She's strong, resourceful, stands up to authority, fights for her family etc. After seeing 'Hunger Games' I couldn't help but draw many parallels between Lawrence as Katniss and her as young Ree in 'Winter's Bone.'

She gives an extremely strong performance here and makes everyone around her better for it. She's so compelling in the role that it's easy to forget how average some of the other acting is (I won't name names).

2. 'X-Men: First Class'


I fought over whether to switch 'First Class' with 'Hunger Games' over and over. Truthfully, I think Lawrence's performance in 'Hunger Games' is, overall, stronger than the one she gives in 'First Class.' But this is a better movies list and I still think that 'First Class' edges out 'Hunger Games' in that aspect.

Kudos to Lawrence though, as she took a relatively unemotional character and made me care about Mystique again. Sure Rebecca Romijn was hot in the role, but she seemed like she was just there to look hot. I thought Lawrence actually gave the character some humanity.

1. 'Winter's Bone'


Even though she was in two notable movies before 'Winter's Bone' we'll just consider this her inaugural movie. It's the movie that made us all sit up and say, "Holy crap, that girl has chops!" It's the same reaction we all had when we saw 'Martha Marcy May Marlene' and thought, "Wow, the Olsen family actually produced a quality actress!"

'Winter's Bone' debuted at the Sundance Film Festival and never really stopped chugging along, all the way to awards season. All of its nominations, from Best Supporting Actor to Best Picture were completely deserved (even if its Best Picture nomination came in the newly expanded-to-ten-movies section). I was actually pulling for Lawrence to pull the upset in the Best Actress category, but nothing was stopping Natalie Portman from winning there after the success of 'Black Swan.' Still, Lawrence deserved to be up there amongst the best of the best, and it was her first major starring role. Imagine what else she's capable of.

As you can see, Jennifer Lawrence is just getting started. She's a magnetic actress. 'Winter's Bone' is among my all-time favorite Sundance Film Festival movies. She's only going to get more and more popular, but hopefully she sticks to her guns and gives us lots of independent work to balance out the numerous sequels she'll be doing in the 'Hunger Games' and 'X-Men' franchises.

Have a different way of ranking Lawrence's filmography? Please, click on the link below and let us know, in the forums how you'd rank her films.

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Tags: Aaron Peck, Jennifer Lawrence, The Burning Plain, Fun Stuff, The Beaver, Jodie Foster, Mel Gibson, The Poker House, Like Crazy, The Hunger Games, X-Men: First Class, Winter's Bone (all tags)