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Friday, May 3, 2013

This Is Not The Jennifer Lawrence Admiration Post For Which You Are Looking

Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence) in Silver Linings Playbook
But it's not a rant either. Well, not really. Listen, I like Jennifer Lawrence as much as the next overhyped fan of The Hunger Games. I love that she gets the chance to play roles that are completely outside what we usually see from her twentysomething-year-old counterparts. Oh, and I like that she's not a bubblegum cardboard cutout of the perfect young woman every starlet should aspire to be like. Most importantly, I'm glad that she isn't afraid to show you just how imperfect she is (see the still ah-mazing clip of her falling up the stairs of the Academy Award stage just before she accepted her shiny Best Actress trophy this year).

I get it. She's funny, charismatic and blonde. She's like a Hollywood poster child. But can we talk about Silver Linings Playbook for a minute? You know, that movie for which she won the trophy and took the fall? A few days ago marked the first time I watched the film, which is delightful and charming, as tragically romantic tales go. Though it took major liberties from the book (which I'd recommend reading, by the way), it got a brand new point across and convinced you that Bradley Cooper can be more than that guy from the Hangover movies (no shade).

But I'm not here to discuss how some of the changes from book to film were completely unnecessary (i.e. changing Pat's trigger song from a Michael Bolton tune to Stevie Wonder's precious "Ma cherie amour"). This is about Lawrence, or JLawr, as she's known in the streets. First of all, for all you who haven't read the novel, Tiffany (Lawrence) is slightly older than Pat (Cooper) in the book. Obviously, this wouldn't be a major deal had they changed certain elements of the film's character in order to accommodate Tiffany's new age. But they didn't really. Tiffany was still a widowed, raging nymphomaniac who met a similarly misunderstood soul in Pat (note: the whole romantic element was totally nonexistent in the book).

So now we have this young actress trying to take on the complexities of a multidimensional woman
Pat (Bradley Cooper) and Tiffany
who is depressed, lonely and searching for her next phase in life, having already experienced insurmountable loss with the death of her husband. While Lawrence captured the desolation and aggressive nature of the character (down to her black fingernails), she came off more angsty than tortured. In other words, she came off flat and very accessible at times, much unlike the original character by whom hers was inspired. 

To her credit, Lawrence was impressive in the newly imagined role, but I can't stop wondering what kind of performance someone like Winona Ryder or Parker Posey could have brought to Tiffany. Posey particularly could have brought the right amount of nuance and depth to Tiffany, without sacrificing how she is portrayed in the book. She'd have made more tangible the inexplicable qualities Tiffany had that which Lawrence herself has stated she did not fully understand. Lawrence reportedly stated in reference to her first impression of Tiffany, "I was very confused by her. She was just kind of this mysterious enigma to me because she didn't really fit any basic kind of character profile."

While Lawrence tackled the character as best she could, there was a disconnect between her and the Tiffany. Lawrence likely channeled similar feelings within herself that weren't exactly in tune with what Tiffany was going through, but she failed to dig deep into Tiffany's inner core.

So that's where I'm at with both Lawrence and Silver Linings Playbook, which is yet another example of a older man scoring the younger woman, however in less than ideal circumstances. The new romantic angle the film took may have really excelled had Tiffany and Pat been closer in age and better united on the front of both having suffered a lifetime of heartbreak.

But, hey, Lawrence is now an Oscar winner.  So whatever, right? Per my calculations, she would have earned one sometime in her career anyway, so I'm not all the way mad at the Academy's decision to give it to her a little early (though it sucks that Quvenzhané Wallis and Jessica Chastain got the shaft). I hope she continues to take roles that challenge her as an actress and stays away from the shallow, teenybopper roles to which many actresses even double her age fall prey. But as far as her performance in Silver Linings Playbook goes, I'm not saying, but I'm just saying.


Brittani Burnham said...

I didn't realize Tiffany was older than Pat in the book. It's on my "to read" list. I kind of feel bad for Bradley Cooper Oscar-wise too. With Daniel Day-Lewis in there, no one else stood a chance.

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