As Katniss Everdeen, Jennifer Lawrence fires her way into UK cinemas this week in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1. Our writers celebrate by discussing the finest film roles the actress has taken on.
Agnes – The Poker House
The Poker House features Jennifer Lawrence in her first leading role as Agnes, a 14-year old girl raising her two younger sisters (played by Sophi Bairley and Chloë Grace Moretz) in her mother’s (the incredible Selma Blair) whorehouse.
As the title suggests, the girls live in a highly unsavoury environment for children – a rundown residence where men come to drink, gamble and have sex. Based loosely on director Lori Petty’s childhood, it plays like a fragmented reel of her memories during what is demonstrated to be a dark and difficult time of her life.
Jennifer Lawrence portrays Agnes superbly, and is completely true to the character of a talented, strong-willed, and yet deeply hurting, vulnerable teenager. Her shining portrayal of the character makes this film undoubtedly one that showed audiences worldwide that Lawrence was a star to look out for. Boy, were they right.
Mariana – The Burning Plain
The movie itself is not necessarily remarkable, but Jennifer Lawrence’s presence in The Burning Plain most definitely is.
Carrying the great responsibility of playing a young Charlize Theron, J-Law was able to steal the position of protagonist from her senior. As Mariana, Lawrence was able to demonstrate that in the business of acting, talent is more important than age since she was still starting her business in Hollywood.
Playing a young teenager who has her view of motherhood shattered when she discovers her mother (Kim Basinger) is having an affair with a married man, J-Law is able to convey how mentally disturbed one can get after unraveling a revelation like this.
She doesn’t speak much, but her eyes surely do the job for her. So if you are a great fan of hers, you definitely have to take a look back at The Burning Plain, since it is absolutely one of her early masterpieces in acting.
Tatiane De Paula E Silva
Ree Dolly – Winter’s Bone
Winter’s Bone is a gritty, low-budget drama set in a poverty-stricken, insular countryside community. When the livelihood of a family is threatened by the actions of their missing father figure, the eldest daughter, Ree (Lawrence) takes it upon herself to find him against the wishes of those in the creepy community in which she lives. Ree, like the subsequent characters Lawrence would be destined to play, soon discovers that the odds are not in her favour.
Having watched the Hunger Games before Winter’s Bone, I doubted Ree would be a totally different character due to the similar attributes she shares with Katniss. In truth, I was expecting Everdeen slumming it in a mountain terrain reminiscent of a potential HG stadium with an over the top Midwestern accent. But Ree is not Katniss, and Lawrence is no amateur.
According to IMDb, Jennifer Lawrence was originally turned down for the role of Ree for being “too pretty.” She flew overnight into New York City, walked thirteen blocks in the sleet to the casting office, and auditioned with a runny nose and hair she hadn’t washed in a week. Upon getting the part, Lawrence also learnt to chop wood and skin squirrels. The method acting clearly paid off.
Lawrence was so convincing as the homegrown, provincial Ree, that amongst all the big-time blockbuster roles she’s done since Winter’s Bone, it’s easy to forget that she was ever the lead of this hard-hitting film. This is not because Lawrence’s performance was not noteworthy, rather the complete opposite; and if you’ve seen the film, just the thought of that disturbing chainsaw scene will still induce a shiver up the spine. At the humble age of 20, Lawrence’s role as the determined, stubborn and tragically brave Ree Dolly led her to be nominated for 54 awards (of which she won 17), including her first Academy Award.
Tiffany Maxwell – Silver Linings Playbook
Perhaps one of the most down to earth actresses in Hollywood, in 2012 Jennifer Lawrence took on a role that sees her play a bipolar woman.
Hands down the thing that draws you to this movie is the outstanding chemistry between Lawrence and co-star Bradley Cooper. The witty dialogue, socially awkward conversations and lack of cliché flirting creates a very real and relatable relationship between the pair. This provides the main source of comic relief for this otherwise heavy film about how we see mental illness.
Jennifer Lawrence’s portrayal of Tiffany would make even the most die-hard Lawrence fans think twice about hanging out with her. Yet calling on her natural charm, she becomes the emotional heart of the film and redemption for Bradley Cooper’s character Pat. A highly complex and multi-dimensional character that Lawrence completely nailed, it comes as no surprise that she won the Oscar for Best Actress for this phenomenal performance.
Katniss Everdeen – The Hunger Games
Jennifer Lawrence is Katniss Everdeen. There is no denying how she became the character and generally, most fans accept her with warm feelings.
This is arguably Lawrence’s most iconic role, and the one in which most people recognise her as an actress. As she is lead actress for this film franchise, we see a strong performance both times. She brings intelligence, wit and a sense of threat for her enemies. However, she has been criticised in this role for not being believable enough with her love for Peeta and for being too strong in comparison to the novel portrayal.
This can be viewed negatively, but it is just Jennifer Lawrence’s powerful personality leaking into her characterisation of Katniss. In the next instalment of The Hunger Games franchise, Katniss looks set to be even more determined as Lawrence is prepared to take the role head-first into battle.
Rosalyn Rosenfeld – American Hustle
Jennifer Lawrence has never been scared to take on complex, multilayered roles, and this is exemplified in her role as Rosalyn Rosenfeld in American Hustle. On the surface, a jealous and delusional housewife, Lawrence brought a strong human element to the role that made it easy to sympathise with the character struggling against her own mind.
Her role appeared initially that of comic relief to contrast the other, more serious main characters, but what Lawrence does brilliantly is to tie in an edge of the unhinged, making you laugh but also feel concerned about what is underneath. Although Rosalyn does nearly ruin the plan concocted by her husband and his mistress, she makes it clear that this is a genuine mistake and brings an intelligence that may be overlooked by those dismissing her as “crazy”.
With an Oscar nomination, it’s obvious critics were a fan of Lawrence’s work, and this shows that although she dominates physical roles as in The Hunger Games and X-Men, she is also massively talented in bringing emotional depth to her performances.
Raven Darkhölme/Mystique – X-Men
In the original X-Men trilogy, Mystique (portrayed by Rebecca Romijn) very rarely amounted to more than Magneto’s blue sidekick. But in First Class and Days of Future Past, the character, now portrayed by Lawrence, has become one of the main faces of the franchise, with fantastic performances in both films.
In First Class, with Mystique very much uncomfortable with her natural blue form, Lawrence actually spends most of the film looking very normal by homo sapien standards. She’s a very sympathetic character who struggles with the fact that no-one, not even her adopted brother Charles, can accept her natural form. As Raven, she is able to demonstrate her fun teenage side, (the mutant-naming ceremony is a particularly great scene) but whilst also showing audiences the inner turmoil of the character.
In Days of Future Past, Mystique is central to the story, with her horror at Trask’s treatment of mutants leading her to kill Trask, dooming all mutants to the dreaded sentinels. The shift to a particularly Mystique-centric storyline for the second film really allowed the actress to win audiences over with her physical performance, bringing new sides to a great character.
With rumours suggesting that X-Men: Apocalypse will explore the Magneto/Mystique relationship, her future with the X-Men looks to be great.