Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Jennifer Lawrence in Silver Linings Playbook

Jennifer Lawrence received her second Best Actress nomination for playing Tiffany, a mysterious and wounded young woman in David O. Russell's Best Picture nominated film, Silver Linings Playbook. Jennifer basically won every important award for her performance in this film, which places her in the status of the front-runner at the Academy Awards (I suppose that SAG and the four acting nominations for the film sealed this). However, I don't think that this win will be an easy one: Emmanuelle Riva is very close to her and Jessica Chastain could also be a threat if they decide to make up for the snub of Kathryn Bigelow. The reason why I think Jennifer is winning is simply because there's so much competition among her fellow nominees and that will give the edge to the front-runner (just like in Melissa Leo's case).

As I've already explained it in a previous post, I find Silver Linings Playbook to be an amazing movie that deals with a very tough subject in a most unusual and yet totally convincing and realistic way. The movie is not ashamed of having a silver lining and not deciding to write a tragic end to the story (in my humble opinion, this underlined the message of the movie so wonderfully). Come Oscar night, I'd very much love to see an upset in basically every category in which it's nominate, even though it's not necessarily my pick in most of them. 

We get to see a twentysomething nominee in the Best Actress category every year, who's enjoying her first nomination (with a slim chance of winning) and the possibility of a great career. And here's Jennifer Lawrence, 22, receiving her second nomination in two years (being the youngest actress to receive two nominations in that category) having received critics' awards, a Globe and a SAG. Many people would have probably bet on Carey Mulligan to gain a second nomination and an Oscar earlier and yet here we are with Jennifer who didn't have the "star is born" hype the last time (since Natalie Portman sucked out the air of anyone's possible campaign with hers).

However, Jennifer's last nomination came for the independent film Winter's Bone, where the cast and crew was able to ignore Hollywood's rules with the raw, unapologetic style of filmmaking. I suppose this attitude was the one that appealed to most Academy voters last time and that's what helped Lawrence's meteoric rise to stardom. She's so uncompromising in her acting and so free of tactics that one could even ignore the term "acting decisions" in her case. Instead of choosing to overanalyse her character, she relies completely on her own instincts and lets her soul drive her performances instead of her head, which may not lead to what we call "great actressing" but what is essential to creating a character that the audience can relate to and connect with certain aspects of their lives. Nowadays reviewers are almost pervertly obsessed with the little details and external aspects of performances that we often tend to forget what it's all about. Primarily, it's not about constantly showing an actor's tools and/or skills, it's more about embodying a believable character that contributes to the story.

I couldn't understand these at all the last time I encountered her as an Oscar nominee, but years taught me to see behind the surface and now I'm just amazed by her talent. And as weird as it sounds from my mouth, I believe we might have found our next Jane Fonda, an actress who creates on her own terms and acts with her soul and flawless instinct. She may not display all those "perfect skills", but her characters are painfully deep and vulnerable, which lead to enourmous effects (on me, at least).

Although Jennifer is much younger than Tiffany should be according to Matthew Quick's novel, her youth adds another layer of vulnerability to Tiffany's character. Nothing that she says about her husband sounds completely believable from her mouth, which confuses you more and makes you uncertain about everything you would think about her and this ultimately leads to a mysterious aura around her that makes it so easy to identify with Tiffany's pain. The fact Jennifer makes the emotions of the character almost touchable makes her acting affect even more deeply.

Moreover, the chemistry with Bradley Cooper makes them one of the two greatest duos that graced the screen last year (guess who were the others). Although there have been complaints about the fact that the whole purpose of Jennifer's character was to support Bradley Cooper's unstable Pat, I'd say that's one of the many-many misinterpretations about this movie or at least it's not a very accurate one in my opinion: Tiffany's character, as unstable as she is herself, brings redemption to Pat's life, just as much as she's saved by Pat. Bradley Cooper's clumsy and obsessive character is the polar opposite of Jennifer's Tiffany and yet they are just as implusive and vulnerable.

And since this chemistry is at the centre of Silver Linings Playbook, it's no surprise that their scenes are the one sticking with you the most. Their argument at the diner and in front of the movie theater is both electric and devastating, perfectly demonstrating how these two human beings are exposed to their traumas and their sudden realization of this is nothing short of heartbreaking.

But really, in the end, it all comes down to my favorite scene all year, the dance contest that is one of the most unusual and memorable scenes I've ever seen in my life: there's a brilliant balance between outrageously funny comedy and a deeply upsetting drama. It has a "last shot at happiness" feeling to it that makes you (or at least me) feel a kind of euphoria, which is perfectly shown on the face of Jacki Weaver in that scene. The bittersweet reality that Lawrence and Cooper both bring to this scene is quite simply astonishing. It's too bad that we're influenced by our own cynicism and our expectations of great "actressing" or "acting" and we forget to enjoy. If anything, Silver Linigs Playbook was a memento for me to examine all my conceptions and opinions about acting and filmmaking in general

Overall, contrary to all the Oscar reviewers and just like everyone else in this world I've totally fallen under the charms of Jennifer Lawrence who gives an unbelievably amazing, beautiful performance and creates a three-dimensional character with such extraordinary passion and depth that it sets the screen on fire and makes you fall in love with her characters despite (or maybe even because of) her flaws. A wondeful portrayal which according to me deserves a

What do you think?


Carlos (The Final Oscar) said...

She's aca-mazing! =))))) Didn't expect that from this movie. Movie's a comedy gem. Weaver shines as ever.

Just saw all of the nominees, and boy, did this year just beat 2011!

My ranking (as of now):
1. Lawrence
2. Riva
3. Chastain
4. Wallis
5. Watts

Not yet sure, but this is one mad line-up for Best Actress! Excited to hear your thoughts for the next nominees :D

Louis Morgan said...

I thought the film was great, although I would be a little annoyed if it swept as De Niro barely makes it into my top 50 supporting actor performances of the year, and Weaver is firmly in fifth place out of nominees in my view.

Anyway Lawrence gives a very strong performance, and overcomes the fact that she was really miscast. She and Cooper were probably the third best duo behind the Amour couple, and for my money Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman.

dinasztie said...

This year easily beats 2011 and 2010 as well. :)

As I said, Lawrence being "miscast" only helped the irracionality of the character.

Nic said...

I pretty much agree with everything you said here.
My thoughts on the whole "instinctive" approach to acting: It can be a double-edged sword. Like what you said, if done correctly, it can lead to very naturalistic acting and believable delivery as it makes the character seem very real and human. (I would say that Diane Keaton in Annie Hall is one perfect example of this) However, I feel that if the character is very different from the actor's personality, relying solely on instincts might lead to a case whereby "the character is transformed into you" instead of the other way round. I think it is important that actors learn to think "how the character would react to this" instead of "how I would react to this". Acting techniques and character analysis might need to come into play for such cases.
Thankfully, Jen has proven to be very good at this kind of acting technique. In WB and THG she reveals the tough, mature and tenacious side of her and delivers. In this very different role, her performance is also nothing short of extraordinary. Yet, I feel that this role might not be too challenging for her because I believe she always has this neurotic/eccentric/slightly wild side to her which she has no problems channelling into her performance. (Based on her real life personality, I'd even say that the neurotic type might be easier to play than the tough side for her)
As such, I can only say that it is still too early to tell whether she'd be the next Jane Fonda. The true test might be that upcoming Serena role. I am not sure, but it sounds like a very quietly chilling and manipulative nurse-ratched-cum-peggy-dodd kind of character that might require Jen to step out of her comfort zone and rely on more than merely her instincts.

dinasztie said...

Nic: Yes, I'm very much looking forward to that movie. I just think that she's so effective anyway, I don't really mind how she acts. :) But I felt SLP showed a different side of hers. She's way more vulnerable and emotionally expressive than she was in THG and WB.

dinasztie said...

Also, I think if she loses this year and pulls Serena off, she can win the Oscar next year. It's said to be a fantastic role.

Sebbers said...

Certainly disagree with giving it 5 stars. It's a good performance, it really surprised me, I expected to really dislike it, but by the end of the film I ended up fully appreciating Lawrence's performance, but I don't think it was that good.

moviefilm said...

Though you're being too nice to her, it definitely is an iconic performance, such as Diane Keaton in Annie Hall... :)

dinasztie said...

I might have been, but denying my love would be dishonest and pretentious of me. :/ :/ I found her fantastic.

Alex in Movieland said...

I agree with the chemistry with all the actors but... 5 stars? never. :)

we will most definitely not agree on 2012's ranking.

Anonymous said...

This is a really thoughtful analysis of her performance, and I largely agree with Nic. I think Lawrence is enormously talented and has a special charisma that can't be taught. Her instincts worked quite well with WB, but I felt in SLP that her character didn't quite cohere. She played her manic and tough sides quite well, but when she went to the bar near the end and suddenly closed off, I didn't feel that she successfully conveyed Tiffany's devastation. At times, it really seemed as though she was just giving line readings.

Lawrence is very honest about the fact that she doesn't have training and doesn't prepare much for her roles, beyond learning her lines. I'm sure she's being self-effacing, but she's relying a lot on directors to craft her performance. I think that she'll be able to use her instincts quite successfully while she's getting her pick of plum roles, but I wonder about her range of performances, and whether she can become a transformative actress or just Lawrence playing X. I'd like to see her continue to develop, because at this point I can't see her taking on the great, complex roles created by Shakespeare, Ibsen, Williams, etc.

joe burns said...

I like her a lot too, I would probably give her a 4 and a half or a five. I'd still go with Riva but I would be more then fine with a win for her.

joe burns said...

Can you do Chastain or Watts next?

Anonymous said...

This was such a fantastic and convincing review of JLaw's performances. Your affection for this perf is contagious!

Of all the nominated performances this one has grown the most on me, and I will be very happy for her when(/if) she wins. With Riva unseen, I'm pretty split on her and Watts (who I really need to rewatch) as my pick.

Michael555 said...

Honestly, I didn't think Riva was that much to write home about. There, I said it.

Lawrence for the win!

dinasztie said...

Derek: Oh-oh, I hope it's contagious. :D

I'm going back and forth between Jen and Emmanuelle as my prediction for the win. :) Why don't they just tie it? :D

Michael555: Well, her review is next so you'll find out if I agree with you (I don't, hehe). :D

Michael555 said...

I know you don't! Lol! Can't wait to read your thoughts!

mrripley said...

I feel her character is a unique one off,no mimicry or make up to hide behind or dizzying camera angles or bait just an actress totally embodying her character,i loved the dance sequence too,hollywoody but real,they didn't win that woulda been silly,i like her "you judged me" speech and her face on seeing pat's wife.

Excellent review i agree she is too young but she plays it soooooooo well.

deffo my pic.

Anonymous said...

Her acting was so faultless and fluid in this movie; while Jessica Chastain showed a serious performance in ZD30, her acting was mechanical, despite her character's requirement to be stern and cold, she just didn't bring anything human to the performance.

Quvenzhane Wallis delivers a brilliant performance for a child actor, though it's not on par with the other nominees.

Emanuelle and Naomi are possibly strong frontrunners because their performances were great as well.

JLaw for the win!

dinasztie said...

Anon, I agree on Jennifer. Jessica's review comes later. :)

Anonymous said...

I met some old college pals last weekend. They work in the industry and have either spoken to or heard of many Oscar voters - especially the older ones - changing their ballots in favor for Emmanuelle Riva.

dinasztie said...

Anon: I'm very sceptical about these friend said that she daid that he said things (of course this is not against you or your friends or their "informants"). The Academy has 6000 members so these infos can be unreliable. Some voters revealed their picked and they went for Jennifer. It's a very tricky race that may not be as confusing as it seems to be. As Miss Marple said, almost always the likeliest possibility is the right one.

I'm VERY excited as I love both ladies. I'm not so secretly hoping for a tie. I'm afraid, though, that Emmanuelle is splitting the arthouse votes with Jessica.

mrripley said...

Who's next???

Rahul said...

Finally experienced the Playbook of Silver Linings. Firstly, kudos to the writer who wrote the actual book - the story is what keeps you glued to every bit of every scene of the Playbook. Secondly, the adapted screenplay is delicately shuttled between dynamite and a bed of roses. Jacki Weaver and Robert De Niro - pure geniuses in their natural element playing the parents. Where art thou Robert! Jennifer Lawrence, fellas - you will fall for her the minute you see her (just like brad feels) - super explosive one minute and super calm the next and super bitchy the next! Bradley Cooper. The man i thought could do only action and comedy - can pull off romance and and and dancing! So what exactly happens when two dynamites explode at the same time and the world sees a sea of calmness, love and chemistry? Thats the climax - a Silver Lining. Was it really a Playbook? If you believe in love and yourself, yes it is!

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SHT L said...

One of the worst Oscar-winning performances ever. Limited range, immature interpretation of the character, lack of technique shows in the non-manic scenes, bad line deliveries, lack of nuance, and perverted camera work by David O. Russell who uses the lens to ogle at JLaw's body. Five years later, and her limited range is much more apparent now.