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Thursday
Jan092014

American Hustle's Jennifer Lawrence Problem

[I am proud to announce that Matthew Eng, who we've heard from twice as a guest columnist, is now an official member of Team Experience. Here he is on a soon-to-be three-time Oscar nominee! -Editor]

By now, Jennifer Lawrence is well on her way to scoring another Oscar nomination for her supporting performance as the unstable, self-dramatizing Reel Housewife of Long Island Rosalyn Rosenfeld in David O. Russell's American Hustle. Despite initially wary expectations regarding role size, divisive reactions towards both film and performance, and a slowly-surging sense of fatigue regarding America's Sarcastic Sweetheart, Lawrence has already been embraced by two major critics groups (NYFCC and NSFC), was the only actor in her prized ensemble to gain individual recognition from SAG, and, depending on how AMPAS feels about Oprah, June Squibb, and Lupita Nyong'o, might very well be on her way to copping yet another golden boy.

I like Lawrence a great deal, have absolutely no qualms about the Silver Linings victory, and think she's often quite good in Hustle. I laughed heartily watching her blame game her way out of that “science oven” debacle and friskily shove her “sweet and sour” nails in Jeremy Renner’s face. She's lovely in that warm, teary-eyed bayside confessional during her lunch date with Jack Huston. And I contemplated dropping out of college and devoting the rest of my life (or, you know, at least a semester or two) to watching her stick it to Amy Adams in that ferocious bathroom kiss-off/actress throwdown.

And yet, if there is any one viewer who can honestly say that they believed -  even for a second - that Jennifer Lawrence was ever really that woman, unhappily married for years to that man, counting the days in that house, and nearly burning down that kitchen, can he/she please stand up? [more... ]

In the weeks since I first saw Hustle, I have found it increasingly difficult to resolve what is inherently fun and entertaining about the performance with what is so blatantly inadequate about Lawrence's stunt casting, not to mention the type of age-inappropriate casting it can only further enable.

American Hustle represents an interesting and fundamentally self-aware step forward in Lawrence's career. Rosalyn, although clearly not the female lead of Hustle, is a role that's all but built for scene-stealing and maximum attention, and Russell calls upon Lawrence to fully utilize the type of silly, self-deprecating, and utterly un-self-serious sense of humor that by now we are all well-acquainted with from awards shows, interviews, and red carpets, but which has heretofore gone missing in her brief but notable filmography, save for the spurts of it we saw in Silver Linings. But even in the film her most memorable, Oscar-clinching scenes were more fiery than funny. Hustle is perhaps the first movie, post-Oscar, that knows and willingly presents not only Jennifer the Bona Fide Silver Screen Star, but also Jennifer the Jokester. The Comedienne. The Ham. In essence, Jennifer As We Know Her, except in period garb; nothing less, and yet nothing much more.

This doesn't entirely feel like Lawrence's fault. It never looks like she's coasting, nor does it look like she's actively trying to hijack the movie (a la, say, the Notorious Ruby Thewes), as some detractors have suggested. Save for one utterly misguided bit of improvisatory dancing to "Live and Let Die" (ridiculous in conception more than performance) and the Slip'n Slide she does with that Long Island accent, Lawrence doesn't seem to be doing anything that Russell isn't simply requesting of her. When he asks for sex kitten, she whips off her caftan and writhes around on that marriage bed. When he asks for life of the party, she slaps the table, shakes the bouffant, and takes a tumble out of the booth, cackling till she hits the ground. When he asks for a loopy, catchphrase-spouting comic side gal, she cracks "Thank god for me" till the cows come home. She's Russell's obliging muse, and aside from feeding into the unshakably sexist treatment of Rosalyn-as-scapegoat, nothing in Lawrence's performance choices seems wrong, per se, or even remotely disastrous. I just didn't believe any of it.


Is it that the film (as scripted) never settles the age issue, specifically whether or not Lawrence is supposed to be reenacting the Diary of an Older, Madder Housewife, in which case the believability factor instantly becomes an issue, or if she's actually a former, Vickie LaMotta-like child bride to Bale's hulking, hairpieced husband, in which case ewww? It's easy to laugh at Jennifer but hard to take her seriously as Rosalyn, especially when Russell often places her, in shot after shot, right next to Elisabeth Röhm, who, from dress to highlights, offers a fabulous portrait of 70s middle-aged housewife verisimilitude. How is any twenty-three-year-old supposed to compare, and so, for the first time, Lawrence, who has always exuded adult, is suddenly showing her age, despite remaining the only actress of her generation who probably never has to play a high school heroine or a drifting postgrad if she doesn't want to? In a film that occasionally if not deliciously feels like an opportunity for David O. Russell's Merry Band of Thespians to play dress-up, Lawrence all too often comes across as the ingenue attempting to stretch into older roles, who slipped into a form-fitting evening dress, slapped on a wig, put her hands on her hips, and called herself a Grown-Up. She sure looks gorgeous and the costumes, cosmetics, and wigs themselves are all flawless, except that, on Jennifer, they look like costumes, cosmetics, and wigs. Lawrence's Rosalyn frequently feels less like an embodied characterization than an elaborate dress rehearsal for one.

What's more, the re-casting opportunities seem infinite, and I continue to fantasize about what an older, less ubiquitous actress might have done with this schematically underwritten role that nonetheless presents a lot of fine opportunities for some showy actressing from the edges. How about Marisa Tomei, an eminently gifted, highly respected, and yet bizarrely underused actress, who hasn't gotten to flex her Oscar-winning comic chops so prominently since, arguably, Mona Lisa Vito? What about Maria Bello, who is no one's first idea of a funny lady, but whose knack for both effortless sensuality and potent, forceful toughness might've made her an interesting match for the sex-wielding, long-suffering Rosalyn? Or what about (dare I suggest it?) Cameron Diaz, one of our most continually-squandered comediennes, who remains in dire need of a role that can both challenge her lazy typecasting and utilize her perky, involving, and reliably-game onscreen persona? Or, if you want to go the typecasting route, The Sopranos' Drea de Matteo would both look plausible and be age-appropriate. (My god, can you imagine that bathroom encounter?)


It's also a bit unfortunate that Lawrence's fine but unfulfilled shtick is being ballyhooed in the same year that gave us two benchmarks of broadly comedic yet deliciously detailed supporting actressing, in the forms of Scarlett Johansson's gum-snapping, shots-calling Jersey Girl in Don Jon and Emma Watson's crafty, Juicy Coutured Calabasas Nightmare in The Bling Ring. I must also admit that I'm more than a little frustrated with how much focus Lawrence pulls, both in the current awards conversation and in Hustle itself, from Amy Adams, whose Sydney Prosser is just as vivacious a presence as Rosalyn but whose character is ultimately a much more evocative and astutely-personified one. Lawrence gives the film humor, at times relentlessly and needlessly so; Adams gives it humanity.

Indeed, for all the hilarity that Lawrence elicits by merely bugging her eyes out while puffing away on a cigarette or popping up in a neck brace, there's a troubling lack of interiority to the performance on the whole. Lawrence problematically omits major, potentially illuminating traits about Rosalyn, including the debilitating social anxiety we hear so much about yet which is totally eclipsed by her brash exterior, or her relationship with her son, who never actually feels like her son, much less someone she lives in the same house with, or, you know, gave birth to. Say what you will about screen time and supporting characters, but in the same movie Bradley Cooper manages to find poignancy and concealed depths in what could've easily remained a surface-bound comic creation. There is always the promise of concealed depths within Rosalyn's character, but seldom the unearthing.

Lawrence's screen persona is too vital to ever be anything less than engaging, even when it's irreparably miscast or overworked. Her Rosalyn is a mixed blessing of a performance, one that we can admire Lawrence for attempting in the first place and even enjoy for its most basic elements, if not one that necessarily warrants the current over-abundance of praise and prizes it has received thus far. Lawrence-as-Rosalyn never feels like anything more than a fun but thinnish acting exercise, a giddy but gimmicky comic spectacle where a real, full-bodied person could have been.


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Reader Comments (136)

Boom! Nailed it.

January 9, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPaul Outlaw

THIS. IS. AWESOME! I agree with every single word!

I prefer at least 5 supporting performances to Jennifer Lawrence's in American Hustle for all of the reasons you stated here. While it superficially fun it lacks any real depth or humanity or even IMO real understanding of the character by Lawrence. If you know that real story (this woman ended up killing herself by hanging) you can really see where she missed the mark with the character. It's an entertaining performance, just not a very good or nuanced one IMO.

January 9, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJessica

I agree. I'm a Jennifer Lawrence fan, and I think she gives a good/adequate performance of a loose cannon wife, but when I left the film I could think of a slew of actresses who could have done an even better job. Heck, I would have liked to see Amy Adams tackle that role. She is way too young for the part, and it comes off as a bit of playing dress-up. Lawrence doesn't embarrass herself as Rosalyn--actually she acquits herself just fine--but the character could have been much more memorable and more than just a punchline.

January 9, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRaul

Interesting piece and I would have loved to see Marisa Tomei in that role. But I think you need to consider that Irving was such a nebbish/pussy with women that it would be hard to accept him having an affair on someone strong. Lawrence's youth, as much as the character gives him permission. Drea would eat him alive (although the idea of Adams crawling on her hands and knees through the woods in that dress with Drea behind her is sort of delicious which is where the bathroom scene would have gone). Sydney/Irving only work if you can believe Irving/Rosalyn don't which means Rosalyn has to be weaker than Irving and you don't get much weaker than Irving.

January 9, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterHenry

For a site with a vast majority of "actressexuals" (why??? oh, why that word?), it feels like they pick waaaaaaaaay too harshly on actresses (I can't believe it has come to the point I feel like defending Lawrence, even though I'm not a fan of her). Also, people here seriously needs to put a lot more of the male counterparts to make the site a little bit more even.

January 9, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMe34

ONTD will love this.

January 9, 2014 | Unregistered Commentermarcelo

Late last night I was thinking just about this. I totally agree with this. Don't want to diminish Lawrence's work but I do think Adams, Bale, Cooper and Renner (who is great in the movie) did a far better job in their parts. Don't know if I can take. JLaw being miscast in a role to old for her again. Please O. Russel, give other girls a chance.

January 9, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterHugo

It's a performance that maybe without the benefit of Lawrence's off-screen persona would not be so rewarded because otherwise, I have no idea what movie people were watching if you thought Lawrence was Best in Show- and I don't really find anybody in American Hustle to be bad but she is nowhere near Best in Show.

"Save for one utterly misguided bit of improvisatory dancing to "Live and Let Die" (ridiculous in conception more than performance)"

I liked that moment because it felt like something Ann-Margret would do in Tommy or some leading lady in a Ken Russell film- but that's just me.

I don't really consider the true story of ABSCAM really necessary for the film given how much distance, smartly, Russell placed between the film and the facts. Rosalyn definitely seemed like she was a bipolar/manic-depressive but it definitely felt like somebody who looked a little more rough, hard living should have played the role. To me ScarJo would've made for a good Rosalyn if just for a more on-point regional casting.

January 9, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterCMG

Me34-A lot of what is said in the piece about Jennifer Lawrence I think also applies to Jared Leto's performance in "Dallas Buyer's Club." He had the look, but not quite the soul of the character.

January 9, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterRaul

Russell seems to have an interest in mental illness. I agree that Roslyn could be bipolar, but I am close to someone with social anxiety disorder who overcompensated for her anxiety with brashness (incidentally, Lawrence has said she had social anxiety growing up; I'm not sure if it's still a factor). Roslyn's behavior seemed fairly consistent with her diagnosis to me.

January 9, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne

Love Jennifer Lawrence, but I agree with every word written here. Great article!

My personal favorite bit of alternate universe casting for Rosalyn is the continually underrated comedienne Anna Faris, who could really use a prestige project as well since her filmography is for the most part, lamentable, especially considering how funny she is. I don't know where she is now, but imagining her comic take on Rosalyn's loopiness is enough to make me squeal with delight. Oh, if only...

January 9, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterFlickah

Never believed that Jennifer Lawrence was Rosalyn for one fucking second. Not ONE! Too young, too brash, too shaky an accent, and on and on. She should be snubbed for an Oscar this year, along with most of "Amerian Hustle" as a whole (all except Bale I guess, but I'll admit that I tend to admire the actorly "stunts" more than most around here do). It'll be sad when this leads the Oscar nominations next week. At least it'll get mad backlashed if it wins best picture in March.

January 9, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterLang

@Henry: I think that's an interesting point, and I do wish that Russell had perhaps further fleshed out and complicated the Irving-Rosalyn marriage beyond "He's a liar who can't resist her!" and "She's a steamroller but also a depressive!" I think Russell's unwillingness to vilify Irving beyond the affair is a major factor in why I find that relationship more than a tad underwhelming. But I don't necessarily buy that Rosalyn is "weaker" than Irving, or even needs to be for us to believe he'd be unfaithful. It's clear from that first scene in their bedroom that she pretty much has him by the balls, and every scene between the two thereafter typically involves Irving trying to control Rosalyn, Rosalyn rebelling, Irving waffling, and Rosalyn ultimately getting her way. I don't think he at all has the upper-hand in that marriage, aside from the emotional manipulation, but even that is clearly inadvertent on his part.

@CMG: Scarlett-as-Rosalyn is a sensational casting idea. And if she had found time to fit this in between Don Jon, Her, and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, I can totally envision her being a runaway threat to win. But alas...

January 9, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMatthew Eng

Well nothing ever has to be written about this performance ever again, Matthew just nailed it from top to bottom. Great work, Matthew! And the goosebumps you gave me when you offered up Marisa Tomei in the role, my god.

January 9, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJA

Somewhat off-topic, but

I'm chalking up my disinterest with this performance down to mostly personal subjectivity, but the most intriguing part of this fine piece is for me the suggestion that Jennifer avoids Zellweger's issue in COLD MOUNTAIN by not (threatening to, trying to) hijack the film. Although, admittedly, I have significantly warm feelings towards COLD MOUNTAIN and Zellweger's performance in it, but I actually thought of Renee while watching this because I was thinking I'd have loved to see her in this role and I suppose I feel about Jennifer the way most people feel about Renee then.

For all the loudness of the performance, I actually did believe Renee was the terrible garish, over the top Thewes but above that one thing about Renee in COLD MOUNTAIN has that I wish Jennifer did was excellent chemistry with her costars. Renee is at her best in COLD MOUNTAIN acting *with* not at Nicole or in the brief moments with Jude talking about Ada, and a jarring thing about Jennifer for me in AMERICAN HUSTLE is how disconnected she seems with her costars. Giving much to the character in a physical way maybe, but never really seeming in sync with character or with the actors she's in scenes with.

My favourite bit in your, piece, though Matthew is the observation that Rosalyn's social anxiety isn't really penetrated by Jennifer, or perhaps the film, which is a shame. That depth would have been welcome. But, for all the glorious costumes for the women I don't find AMERICAN HUSTLE doing right by its female characters, that much. Constant observation, but scant penetration.

January 9, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterAndrew K.

My take on this performance was the she was making fun of her character rather than embodying her. It was fun to watch, but just didn't add up to anything.

January 9, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterBenji

@Flickah: I would love to see Anna Faris in a project that's even remotely deserving of her, but I'm sure that her lowbrow filmography probably turns a lot of directors and casting agents off, even though she always manages to transcend even the shlockiest of shlock. Same goes for Ari Graynor. I totally remember there being a Private Benjamin remake in the works with Faris in the lead, which I could totally see working, but I'm sure Mom has pretty much derailed that, at least with her in it.

January 9, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMatthew Eng

My thoughts exactly, liked parts but the sing song scene was a step too far and SHE IS TO YOUNG for what i expect is really a worl weary actress role.

January 9, 2014 | Unregistered Commentermark

I think Russell tried to not make any character look like a bad guy but at least the film was pretty consistent on that matter. I don't really quite need too many details on Irving's marriage to Rosalyn, especially when Irvings contempt with Rosalyn is not so much that as frustration and exhaustion. I agree maybe the age needed to be underlined but I can buy Irving at first having puppy love but feeling responsible for the kid clinched it more than Rosalyn herself. I think he felt like the son needed a father-figure, no matter how flawed he actually is to be taking that position.

I also think Sydney is incredibly realized. I can buy her liking Irving. Irving seems safe until he is not but then he opens himself up to her and then she goes for it, until he places restrictions because of his family life and then she threatens to leave him by playing him and Richie at once.

January 9, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterCMG

Fantasy reworking of AH:

Adams is the only cast member who stays.
Jeffery Dean Morgan as Irving.
Marisa Tomei (loving that more and more) as Rosalyn
John Travolta in the Renner role.
Bobby Carnavale in the Cooper role.

Everyone else stays, especially Louis CK and E Rohm

Bring in a script doctor to fix the flaws, a competent director (Bharat Nalluri was wonderful with Adams in Pettigrew) and then make Sydney/Lady Edith the center of the story. And for God's sake, get a DP who knows how to make a woman look beautiful.

January 9, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterHenry

Great article and I agree about the believability.

But at the same time, I liked Lawrence's performance. Not every performance needs to have depth, and I kind of liked the way she skated around on the surface, never understanding consequences.

In a movie-movie way, I loved the pairing of Jack Huston and Jennifer Lawrence. From his introduction in a pool of light, wearing white, and looking like he was waiting for her, he tied off the story of Rosalyn meeting her perfect partner.

January 9, 2014 | Unregistered Commenteradri

The film was about people lying to themselves and disguising who they are through dress up! Her age was part of that. She was supposed to be young and out of place. I'm not the biggest Lawrence fan and would rank her performance 5th of the main five but dear God, the Lawrence hate is getting to be too much (mostly directed at commenters, your writing is very good and focuses on critique of performance and direction.)

By the way, Tomei in this role would have been all kinds of perfect, but leave Lawrence alone. She did a fine job and gave depth to a character that didn't have much to do.

January 9, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSteve

@CMG; thanks for summing up my thoughts, I too feel like Jlaw is only getting the accolades because of real life Jlaw and not Jlaw as Rosalyn.

January 9, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterBee

She wasn't my favorite in the movie, but I have been floored by the love she is getting from the Critics Groups -- and I mean, she is cleaning up!

And yes, if we recast for age -- Cameron Diaz was my first thought, but wow, Drea de Matteo would've been so unexpectedly wonderful.

Kris Tapley made an interesting comment in an Oscar Talk with Anne Thompson, alluding to the fact that Bale and Lawrence haven't been as hardcore promoting Hustle because of tension with him on set. I hadn't heard anything about this with Lawrence, but I would love to know more.

January 9, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterBia

Amen to this whole article. Spot on.
I love JLaw. But she didn't belong here. DO'R needed to reign her in a bit.
I thought Cameron Diaz too, Penelope Cruz also would have been incredible!
Good call on Marisa Tomei too.

January 9, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJB

I'm sorry to disagree, but the problem is not JLaw but O.Rusell himself. He absolutely drops any character arc to exploit kistch for the sake of it - alright, with syle over substance in spades- (save for Amy Adams' Sydney, the closest this movie has to any person remotely "real" within the main protagonists - the other being the boss of Cooper's Richie DiMasso). I would even argue the scene that really connected me with the madness these people portray is the infamous bathroom scene, and Lawrence is no small part in it. I undestand she's too young for the part, but it's no her fault. Blame a script which is all pirotecnics, improv and not much else. And full disclosure: I was entertained even with all these holes! And I got the "farce", but it could be so muche more...
I heard O Russell claims he found "his voice" with the last three films. I just wish this was true but I suspect, at least with AH, that is really Paul Thomas Anderson circa "Boogie Nights" whispering in his ear. And even PTA has matured ever since!

January 9, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterchofer

Great article. I did enjoy the "Live and Let Die" scene, though.

Jennifer COOLIDGE circa Best in Show would've been amazing as Rosalyn.

January 9, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJan

I agree! I think Amy Adams actually should have played Roslyn and J. Law Edith/Sydney.

January 9, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMego

Exactly. I think this is a case where the part is the thing. I said it before and I'll say it again, you plug in any above competent actress in this part and they probably get the same accolades.

January 9, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterVal

I walked away from Lawrence's performance in the first viewing genuinely not knowing if I loved it or hated it. I thought she was miscast in several scenes. Funnily enough, it was the "Live and Let Die" scene that drew me in. I suspected I'd love every minute of her on the second viewing, and I was right.

Here's the deal: Con movies are elaborate, often ridiculous pieces of work, and this film starts mocking itself from its opening moments. Bale, Adams and Cooper are all accomplishing different things and are completely separate pieces of the con. Lawrence is all spectacle, and she was built to be entirely spectacle. She not only succeeds there - she blows it out of the water.

Interesting that you bring up Mona Lisa Vito - it's a very comparable work. Do we buy that Miss Veto is attracted to Joe Pesci's character? In real life no, but in the movie, their dynamic works. How about her being a mechanic knowing intimate details about automobiles? It's a hilarious trope, but I don't expect to run into this woman any time soon. What's so different about the two? American Hustle is a kind of circus act and yes, if we're asking ourselves what Lawrence is adding outside of Russell goading her "More! More!" we may not think it's not up to snuff. The results are brilliant comedy though. I appreciate the few-and-far-between moments when Oscar manages to have a sense of humor.

Perhaps Russell's greatest accomplishment is doing the obvious here - taking a dynamic, funny, cocky young actress, putting her in beautiful clothes and letting her go nuts. Frankly, it not only works for me, I'm really glad someone had the sense to do it. Tomei's had her turn. Let's give Lawrence's lava lamp burnt face its time in the sun.

January 9, 2014 | Unregistered Commentereurocheese

Omg, ur post is spot on. Even as a Lawrence fan, I don't get the Oscar buzz for her performance in this movie. Lawrence is a brilliant actress, no doubt. Her portrayal of Rosalyn was initially funny and infusing humor at the right moments but then it became absurd. It was not at all a believable performance. But right now, Lawrence can appear in a movie and do nothing and still have Oscar buzz. It’s a J'Law bias. IMO, Amy Adams gave the best and most believable performance in American Hustle. She was absolutely brilliant and she deserves an Oscar nom.

January 9, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJacki

This is really great! Looking forward to reading more from Matthew Eng.

January 9, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMike in Canada

Henry- Oh geez, if you didn't like any aspect of the movie (script/director/half the cast) then why make those changes. It's exactly the David O. Russell movie I expected and it leaves room for somebody to make their ABSCAM film. Do you want an ABSCAM film, because I don't get any of those changes?

January 9, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterCMG

While I agree with a lot of this (and it's a GREAT read!), I disagree with Lawrence being miscast in the role. It's certainly not particularly imaginative casting from David O. Russell, and there are certainly other actresses I would have rather seen (TOMEI!), but I bought her as Irving's "trophy wife" who was (or became) much more than he initially thought, and eventually got to be too much for him to handle.

It's actually a performance that has faded pretty hard for me - which indicates to me that it's mostly, if not all, surface. And yes, Johansson and Watson did FAR superior work to Lawrence and I'm sad they haven't gotten the recognition. But then, having a flashy performance in a flashy Christmas prestige pic can have that effect!

January 9, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterdenny

I totally loved your piece... and agree with ALL you said ... except I wasnot happy with her receiving the Oscar last year.

I love her usuallly but not in thewe two films. AH she should not even be nominated....

January 9, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterrick

What a load of waffle!! Crap crap Kennifer Lawrence
Is amazing and is the highlight of the film the film suffers when she's
Not on screen

January 9, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterGazza

Please. Lawrence was the highlight of the movie by a country mile. Nice to see haters form their own support group. But she owned this film much more than Adams' who didn't generate the slightest sympathy. Or laugh.Or reaction. Or anything.

January 9, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterWinston

You make me sad with two words: Marisa Tomei. The talents. What she could have done in this role.

January 9, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMike

Love this. So true.

I think Lisa Kudrow or Naomi Watts could have been AWESOME in this particular role.

January 9, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterMartín HM

I keep imagining Julianne Moore in the part for some reason. It'd also make a neat parallel to Amy with the red hair. Make those two more similar than the film actually does and the triangle that forms becomes, I think, infinitely more interesting. If they'd have cast her I imagine this year's best supporting actress contest would, to put it mildly, not be a contest at all.

Still, I very much enjoyed Lawrence and appreciated her efforts because whenever she's on screen the film is far more entertaining and interesting than it otherwise is.

January 9, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn

Don't you think it's because of the 'celebrity' that now surrounds her persona that we don't take it as seriously as we might have if this was her first performance? Everyone who loves Lawrence as much - which means most people - is probably familiar with her character off screen, which I do agree clouds the performance a bit. But I bought her as a (young) housewife who married someone who could provide for her. I really believe that if she was less famous than she is right now, this would not have been a discussion.

Good writing though.. nice addition to this site. :)

January 9, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterKevin

Incidentally I think what Lawrence pulled off is missed by the reviewer. The reviewer correctly notes that Lawrence has always exuded adulthood even as a teenager, which is why she never had trouble playing older. But then here he claims that she mysteriously showed her age. Far be it or me to argue with someone's subjective opinion (which just happens to be disagreed with by legions.) But one thing I took away from AH was how Lawrence mixed the sense of fragility and strength. At one moment she seems this young, needed, naive, out of her depth thing, but then emerges as this really cunning, manipulative character (dumb as a fox). Her sudden sense of youth was a performance,a misdirection, that contrasted brilliantly with her intelligence. The point the film makes that out of all of them she was the ultimate con artist, which is why Sydney was left obliterated by their confrontation.She found the humanity and emotion in a tightrope role that could have been a caricature and created an intricate, borderline character that was simultaneously strong and vulnerable.

January 9, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterWinston

CMG--The idea is terrific. Its the execution I don't agree with.

I like all the actors I replaced, just not necessarily in these roles. I don't like Russell's movies and his script it full of holes, but again, its a great idea.

January 9, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterHenry

Matthew, thank you for articulating so beautifully what is problematic about this performance. If JLaw is not careful, she's going to be typecast as the older/younger woman. Don't these kids know life passes by so quickly. Jennifer, BE a 23-year-old. Sigh.

January 9, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

Eurochees, Winston, and Kevin -
Thank you for saying everything I am feeling.

January 9, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterSteve

"serena" probably flopping this year might be a blessing in disguise for lawrence...

January 9, 2014 | Unregistered Commentermarcelo

Good read. I agree with everything, except that I wasn't too keen on Cooper either. I saw the film with a group who were not film nerds like me, they had no preferences and no preconceived ideas about the actors. The consensus was that it was too long and the best way to trim it down was to get rid of Lawrence's character since she wasn't necessary and trim Cooper's role because he was irritating. They wanted more Renner/Bale time because it gave the story more heart and they wanted more time on the threat from the mob to increase the danger levels.

January 9, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterJerry

My take was that I loved her performance but felt she was acting in a completely different movie. You couldn't take your eyes off her and enjoyed every second and yet nothing at all seemed connected to the film. My theatre audience (about half teenage girls) laughed uproariously to her Live and Let Die cleaning bit. She's a fun, true movie star.

January 9, 2014 | Unregistered Commenterjtagliere

I agree with a lot of this.. but I don't think it's a casting issue. But it could be that I seem to interpret Richie in a different way. For me, there's a pretty clear divide between the characters - Adams', Bale's and Renner's characters seem to be living in one world, a much more adult world, where people's emotional reactions fit what we expect of them. Cooper's and Lawrence's, however, feel like they're coming from a different world. They're both childish characters, with responses that are often more impulsive and less realised in the context. Richie and Rosalyn create the problems/ drive the plot, and Sydney, Irving, and Carmine have to deal with them/ provide the emotional core of the movie. It's also reflected in the acting - Cooper and Lawrence have a very obvious, physical comedy aspect to their acting, while Adams, Bale and Renner are more internal. They're both legitimate approaches to characters, acting, and storytelling, but I think what happens here is that this clash becomes somewhat too apparent in the movie. Pitting these two groups together makes Syndey, Irving and Carmine feel like real people, and Richie and Rosalyn... not so much. It could be that this is where Lawrence's star power really comes to play, because I don't mind this so much with Rosalyn (although I am still slightly confused at the number of people who feel she overshadows Adams), but to me Cooper was the weak link in the movie.

Regarding Rosalyn's age, it's addressed in the movie, Irving acknowledges that she's much younger than him. Probably not as young as Lawrence, but she could easily be 25-27. Ewww? Yes, I agree, and it would have been nice if it were addressed. I don't know if it's an attempt to show Irving in a better light, or whether it's exactly the question of clashing worlds. I can see Irving's character dealing with this topic, but Rosalyn? Not so much. They could have had Syndey call him out on it, though. :|

@Bia - they're both filming, Bale abroad, and both have specifically taken time off filming to promote the movie. Lawrence was definitely appearing in events before she started filming. Bale has addressed some of those 'tensions' on set, unprompted, in interviews, and it doesn't sound like he has any problem at all with Russell (if he did, I don't think he would have brought it up).

January 9, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterPitry

I think the author here didn't understand that Lawrence was supposed to look like playing dress up and looking too young. Both Lawrence and Russell have said in interviews that Rosalyn was supposed to be this young mixed up woman way in over her head. I think Lawrence played that perfectly. Otherwise didn't much like the film.

January 9, 2014 | Unregistered CommenterFts

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