This morning I read about an upcoming, quality-aspiring, untitled Jennifer Lawrence film. With Scott Rudin producing, Lila Neugebauer (The Waverly Gallery) directing and a script by first-timer Elizabeth Sanders, it’s most likely one of those probing, adult-angled, upmarket things — the sort of project that stage directors are often drawn to and which tend to appeal to actresses going through a rough or fallow patch.
Lawrence has been at it for roughly a decade, or since her breakout performance in Winter’s Bone (’10). Two and a half years later she delivered a grand-slam, Oscar-winning performance in Silver Linings Playbook (’12), which became a sizable worldwide hit on its own steam. But during the six and a half years since that David O. Russell film opened at the Toronto Film Festival, nothing Lawrence has done has really matched it.
She costarred in two Russell follow-ups, American Hustle (’13) and Joy (’15). Hustle collected Oscar noms and earned $150 million domestic and Joy won at least some critical praise. But neither seemed to really connect in a primal, essential, lightning-bolt way. Not in my book, at least.
She costarred in Serena (’14), a ’30s era Susanne Bier film that everyone ignored, perhaps because they didn’t want to see Lawrence paired once again with SLP costar Bradley Cooper.
Lawrence upped her arthouse cred with a brave, go-for-broke lead performance in Darren Aronofsky‘s mother!, a controversial success d’estime that (be honest) a lot of people hated.
Last year she starred in the flat-out atrocious Red Sparrow, which stalled at $46 million domestic. In ’16 she costarred with Chris Pratt in the financially successful but grotesquely misconceived and in some quarters deeply despised Passengers.
The rest of her films have been franchise swill — four X-Men flicks (including the upcoming Dark Phoenix) and four Hunger Games installments.
The plight of a mainstream movie star is never an easy one, and nobody ever said that staying on top was easy, even for the profoundly talented. All I know is that my sense of Lawrence’s journey is that she peaked six and a half years ago (she won her Silver Linings Oscar in early ’13) and since then her arrows haven’t really been hitting the target. Okay, once or twice but certainly no bull’s eyes.
Then again Lawrence is young (her 30th birthday isn’t until 8.15.20) and can survive another few years of in-and-out, mezzo-mezzo career adventures. But sooner or later she needs to get lucky again.