When Jennifer Lawrence burst on the scene a few years ago with her Academy Award-nominated turn in the indie film "Winter's Bone," many people expected big things from the then-20-year-old actress. Lawrence did not disappoint, but she went in a slightly different direction than some expected.
The Louisville, Kentucky-native followed up her acclaimed breakout performance with a supporting role as the shape-shifting mutant Mystique in the blockbuster "X-Men: First Class." Not an Oscar-worthy movie by any stretch, but a franchise picture can be an important step in a young actor's career. With one major series already under her belt, it would be the actress's next role as the indomitable Katniss Everdeen in "The Hunger Games" that would catapult her from budding young starlet to "star to watch" overnight.
Topping out at nearly $700 million in box office receipts, 2012's "Hunger Games" demonstrated that Lawrence really had what it took to carry a franchise. But, as is so often the case with multi-movie series' like this, it's what those players choose to follow up their star-making turn with that determines what their actual staying power will be. Given the unbridled success of "The Hunger Games" can Lawrence ever hope to live up to the hype surrounding her? Her new film "Silver Linings Playbook" will be that test.
Debuting at the Toronto International Film Festival next week, "Silver Linings Playbook" stars Bradley Cooper ("The Hangover," "Limitless") as Pat, a former high school teacher who returns home after a lengthy stint in a mental institution. While struggling to readjust to the world outside the institute, Pat meets Tiffany (Lawrence), an unsettled young woman who offers to help him get his life back on track in exchange for his aid. Directed by David O. Russell ("I Heart Huckabees," "The Fighter") and co-starring Robert De Niro (who also starred with Cooper in "Limitless"), "Silver Linings Playbook" has become one of the most anticipated films of the 2012 festival - mainly because it features one of Lawrence's first post-"Hunger Games" role. (She also completed the indie horror "House at the End of the Street" this year.)
There's no doubt that Lawrence is an incredibly gifted actress - earlier this year "Rolling Stone" went so far as to call Lawrence "the most talented young actress in America," a claim that is hard to refute given her recent track record. However, acting ability aside, it remains to be seen if she can be a box office draw outside the confines of a well-established franchise. The actress's 2000 per cent raise for the "Hunger Games" sequel "Catching Fire" show that the producers of that series have faith in her, but will that rabid fandom translate into ticket sales for her non-"Hunger Games" movies? Maybe. David O. Russell's unique brand of existential dramedy isn't exactly catered to aspiring Hunger Games tributes. However, in light of the fact that it's hard to come away from "The Hunger Games" without really liking Lawrence as a performer, maybe her presence in "Silver Linings Playbook" will be enough to put butts in seats for the movie.
Hollywood will find out just how bankable Lawrence is when "Silver Linings Playbook" hits theatres on Nov. 21, and Toronto will get a sneak preview at TIFF on Sept. 8.