Call for Essays About Any Aspect of Popular Culture, Present or Past

 

Best Supporting Actress: Is It Too Early to Give J-Law Another Oscar?

Bookmark and Share
Text:AAA
Thursday, Dec 12, 2013
Jennifer Lawrence walks off with American Hustle. If awards for Best Supporting Actress are made of something different, we don’t know what that is.
cover art

American Hustle

Director: David O. Russell
Cast: Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, Jeremy Renner, Amy Adams, Jennifer Lawrence

(Columbia Pictures; US theatrical: 20 Dec 2013 (General release); 2013)

I attended a packed screening of American Hustle in New York City over the Thanksgiving weekend and after leaving the theater could only think of one thing: Jennifer Lawrence will take over the world. Not only was she queen at the box office for the second week in a row (The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is poised to become 2013’s highest grosser! Which would also be the first time for a female-led film), she was also the clear standout in David O. Russell’s thrilling caper.
  
Based on the infamous ABSCAM operation in which powerful politicians were convicted for corruption, the film has Christian Bale and Amy Adams play the crooks who team with FBI agent Bradley Cooper, in order to catch these high-rank delinquents. Lawrence plays Bale’s character’s wife Rosalyn, a ditzy blonde who falls asleep under sun lamps, gets off on the smell of her nail polish and accuses her new microwave oven of stealing her food’s nutrients. Delivering the screenplay’s zingers with perfect comedic timing and a touch of sexiness she’d never displayed before, it’s safe to say that she is a scene-stealer. After each and every one of her appearances, the guy sitting next to me kept gasping and saying “god, I love her”, and the room exploded in laughter so loud, that the next lines of dialogue were almost impossible to hear.


If awards for Best Supporting Actress are made of something different, I don’t know what that is. Bringing heightened levity to what already turned out to be a crowd-pleasing motion picture, Lawrence then did the unthinkable and completely wrecked our hearts. There is a key scene in the film—it will undoubtedly be her Oscar clip—in which she goes from drunk, to furious, to tender, to threatening, to devastating in a matter of seconds. It was the equivalent of watching a Judy Holliday character turn into Ingrid Bergman in the blink of an eye.


As I wrote this, news came that she’d been selected as this year’s Best Supporting Actress by the New York Film Critics Circle (the film won awards for Best Screenplay and Best Picture as well) which immediately led to an array of shocked remarks about how she’d sneaked in and displaced another season frontrunner. In her defense, not that such a thing is even needed when it comes to something as trivial as movie awards, she falls right into subcategories awards groups have always voted for: long suffering wives, vixens, comedic relief. That she pulled off the three of them is perhaps even more remarkable.


Awards bodies were obsessed over her last year for her performance in Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook, which won her a myriad statuettes including the Academy Award for Best Actress, and as she kept winning it became quite obvious that it wasn’t entirely about the performance (her Tiffany was a remarkable creation though) but about crowning her as the new hot thing in town. Awards after all are nothing but popularity contests and by the time Silver Linings Playbook came out, J.Law had already proved her worth as an actress (Winter’s Bone) and as an action star (The Hunger Games). Her award winning performance last year wasn’t as “important” as the work of Emmanuelle Riva or Jessica Chastain, but it was efficient and touching. Immediately after her win, claims of whether she deserved it or not began popping up and while the whole aspect of “deserving” an award for performing is questionable, to say the least, what can be said if that Hollywood was dying to shower her with awards they might as well have waited for this one.


It also has to be said though, that people seem to forget that besides being the Queen of the internet, a huge box office draw, a victim of Dior, an Entertainment Weekly Entertainer of the Year and a talk-show guest extraordinaire, J.Law is also a terrific actress and what she does with Rosalyn is completely unexpected and might just be her finest achievement to date. It’s strange, but it should be harder to shake off the J.Law-ness from a Jennifer Lawrence performance (given that she’s featured in blogs, magazines and websites all over the world almost daily) yet it’s not. Watching Rosalyn, there is no sign whatsoever of the fun-loving actress who tripped on her way to collect her Best Actress Oscar earlier this year, or even any of the ferocity in the Katniss Everdeen we all saw just a couple of days before. She is the rare actor who, no offense to screenwriters, seems to be creating her own dialogues as she goes along. Her effortlessness is so powerful that it’s easy to forget she’s acting. Her ability to become possessed by her characters is something rare that should be celebrated not questioned. When was the last time we had a bonafide movie star who was also one of our most brilliant thesps?


* * *


American Hustle opens December 13.


Media
Related Articles
3 Apr 2014
Scene for scene, American Hustle may be most David O. Russell's most aesthetically pleasing film.
By PopMatters Staff
7 Jan 2014
It was a particularly strong year for women in film. These sensational performances remind us that, when all is said and done, it's character and how an actor or actress creates them that matters as much to a movie as a script, a director, or an idea.
By PopMatters Staff
7 Jan 2014
The best male film performances highlight how masculinity, managed within a more considered and complete character overview, can turn even the most rugged rogue into an equally strong if sensitive cinematic center.
By PopMatters Staff
5 Jan 2014
After a shaky start, 2013 ended up a stellar cinematic year, covering subjects as varied as young love, '70s (and '80s and '90s) con men, our country's horrific history of slavery, and perhaps most importantly, giant robots battling equally elephantine alien monster.
Comments
Now on PopMatters
PM Picks
Announcements

© 1999-2014 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters.com™ and PopMatters™ are trademarks
of PopMatters Media, Inc.

PopMatters is wholly independently owned and operated.