Breakthrough Performance: Jennifer Lawrence

Jennifer Lawrence at the 83rd Academy Awards

Jennifer Lawrence at the 83rd Academy Awards By Mingle MediaTV [CC BY-SA 2.0],
via Wikimedia Commons

Jennifer Lawrence is one of the actresses that I really admire today. Her first movie to gain commercial success is X-Men: First Class (2011). And I only started liking her when she was cast in The Hunger Games (2012) adapted from the book series which I read and loved before they were made into movies. But who was she before she portrayed the shape-shifting villain Mystique and our beloved victor Katniss Everdeen? Let’s look back and find out Jennifer Lawrence’s breakthrough performance, the role which took her career to a higher level.

Jennifer Lawrence at Her Starting Point

Lawrence began her acting career in the TBS sitcom The Bill Engvall Show in 2007 which lasted for 3 seasons. In 2008, she made her film debut with a minor role in the drama Garden Party (2008), followed by her first leading role in another drama film The Poker House (2008). She next appeared in the independent film The Burning Plain (2008) with Charlize Theron. But it was Lawrence’s lead role in Debra Granik’s Winter’s Bone (2010) that is often mentioned as her breakthrough performance.

Winter’s Bone

Winter's Bone Poster

Winters bone poster” by Roadside Attractions. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia.

Winter’s Bone (2010) is a movie adapted from Daniel Woodrell’s novel of the same name which is usually classified as country noir. This indie production won Best Picture at the Sundance Film Festival. Here, Lawrence takes the role of the 17-year-old Ree Dolly living in the Missouri Ozark Mountains. She cares for her younger siblings and mentally ill mother while searching for her missing father who was involved in the local drug trade. Her troubles were made even more difficult by secrets kept to her by her own relatives regarding the disappearance of his father. Ree kept reminding them of their blood ties but nobody wanted to talk.

Talking just causes witnesses, and he don’t want for any of those.

I can’t help but be intrigued. What was wrong with their family? What was really going on?

The atmosphere of the movie is rustic, with simple but violent folks, most of them involved in drug selling. Dark-toned with rural bleakness, this movie may be considered by others to be somewhat boring and slow. But for me, alongside the slow pacing and subdued mood, I still felt the prominent sense of danger and suspense. I like how the characters were written and how they were played by the actors. For them to live in that environment is believable. They appeared raw and authentic, as though the cast really belong there, blending with the setting. Maybe it helped that some of the actors really lives in that Missouri area, including those who portrayed Ree Dolly’s siblings. Aside from JLaw, I praise John Hawkes as the terrifying yet supportive Teardrop for his marvelous performance. I also enjoyed the included bit of folk music, of bluegrass and the banjo, which is a good break from the eerie feeling set by the suspenseful scenes.

Jennifer Lawrence as Ree Dolly

As I was watching this movie, I can’t refrain from noticing that Jennifer Lawrence already emits the aura of a strong-willed character that we usually see from her other movies. She very well represented a heroine that is bold and determined but also tender to her loved ones. I was even thinking, oh, just like Katniss from District 12 of The Hunger Games (2012). Ree is resilient but not arrogant. Instead, she’s a nurturing daughter and sister that I rooted for until the end. JLaw’s performance aptly shows Ree’s determination and willingness to face dangers to save her family. There are a number of scenes that really moved me as a result of JLaw’s talent in expressing emotions. Her acting prowess is remarkable, particularly in the unforgettable boat scene near the end where I really felt her anguish.

Because of her performance in Winter’s Bone (2010), 20-year-old Lawrence received her first Academy Award nomination for Best Actress in 2011 as well as a Golden Globe nomination for Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama. She was also nominated and won numerous awards like best actress, most promising artist, and best breakthrough performance from other organizations.


Since her exceptional performance in Winter’s Bone (2010), it is said that every movie featuring Jennifer Lawrence has been a success. I am convinced that all of us is a witness in that. So if you haven’t watched this yet, I think it would be worth it to see the movie that brought us one of the most promising actresses in these recent years.

View the official trailer here.

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7 thoughts on “Breakthrough Performance: Jennifer Lawrence

  1. Hey, Lily! 🙂 Not every movie since Winter’s Bone had been a success, there’s House at the End of the Street which kind of bombed. And also Serena. But yeah, I like Jennifer Lawrence, too! *high five*

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    • Hello, black_kitty! Oops! Okay, we can change that to “almost every movie”. Haha! Should be careful in my writing next time. Of course, there always have to be exceptions.

      Anyway, I am excited for Mockingjay – Part 2. And here’s my reply *high five*! 😀

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  2. Oh right! I saw House at the End of the Street and it really wasn’t very good. Serena however, I had no clue that it bombed.

    Winter’s Bone has been called “poverty porn”, a term that’s a bit derogatory. “Country Noir” is definitely way better. And I am most excited to see the movie she’s cooking up with Amy Schumer! She hasn’t done comedy (I, think) and I bet she’ll be excellent at it.

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    • I had fun watching Silver Linings Playbook; that is partly comedy. Hehe! And I heard Joy is a drama/comedy too.

      They’ll be playing sisters in that movie, right? Let’s watch that JLaw/Schumer movie together when it comes out!

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    • Actually, I also think that she’s a bit overrated. The Academy likes her a bit too much. And because of The Hunger Games, a lot of people adored her. (Including me. Haha!) But there’s no doubt that she’s a pretty good actress, especially compared to her contemporaries.

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      • She is a good actress but I think that her talent are wasted on roles that are mediocre at best. She’s not my favorite actress of her age group since I believe there are a lot who’s more talented than her yet elude her degree of fame because they are not part of film franchises or they do not have this cult of celebrity surrounding them.

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