Will Jennifer Lawrence ever enjoy a film as impressive as her breakthrough Winter’s Bone? Film critic Tony Earnshaw tries to find out.
From nowhere she came with a performance that stunned the hardened Hollywood cognoscenti.
Suddenly Jennifer Lawrence, just 20 years old, had an Oscar nomination as Best Actress and was the toast of the town. It was nothing short of astonishing: from small-town Kentucky to stardom in just five years; from earning $3,000 a week on her breakthrough Winter’s Bone to trousering $10m for the Hunger Games sequel written by Keighley’s own Simon Beaufoy. Wow…
There are those who look at Lawrence’s career and mutter about how she has been taken up by the studio machine on products like the X-Men reboots and star vehicles for the likes of Hangover hunk Bradley Cooper, with whom she stars in two soon-to-be-released flicks.Then there’s House at the End of the Street, Radio 1 DJ-turned-filmmaker Mark Tonderai’s chiller about the romance between new girl on the block Elissa (Lawrence) and a creepy kid who still lives in the house where his sister murdered his family.
“It’s tricky,” smiles Lawrence when asked if she likes horror movies.
“I shouldn’t watch scary movies because my imagination is out of control. Then I’m scared for months – screaming, running back and forth from the bathroom to the bed like I’m being chased by somebody.
“But I love scary movies. I have to force myself not to watch them because it just affects me forever and turns me into an insane person.”
Good to know. It’s also refreshing to hear that Lawrence has retained some of that sense of wonder despite shouldering the equally insane burden of carrying the Hunger Games series – a franchise that has taken $700m at the box office, and counting.
Yet there’s the sense that having enjoyed the low-budget indie experience of Winter’s Bone she’s attempting to balance personal projects with high-gloss product. Being at the heart of one franchise is big enough, but two? She’s a brave lass.
Lawrence gives the impression of seeking to make a horror movie that dared to step outside of Hollywood convention to dabble in the psychology of horror. Part of that was the plot, part was working with 40-year-old Tonderai who’s debut feature, Hush, was part funded by Screen Yorkshire.
“What I loved about the script is that it wasn’t about gore. That’s what I loved about Mark – [he wrote] very well developed characters. You find yourself getting scared for these people from a personal place. It was a very sophisticated way to scare an audience.
“Mark saw it as a character piece: no cheap scares. Just something that’s in us as human beings – being frightened.”
Something that runs deep in House at the End of the Street is the notion of trust. Lawrence put enormous trust in Tonderai to deliver the film they both believed in. And Elissa puts a similar level of trust in her new neighbour, Max (played by Ryan Thieriot), despite everyone else’s protestations to the contrary.
“Everybody kind of tells her to stay away from him but she feels sorry for him, thinks that everyone’s wrong and kind of takes a chance on him.
“We are constantly telling each other ‘Listen to your gut, listen to your instincts’. That’s how we go through life. And there’s such a huge fear in ‘What if that instinct is wrong?’ You think that you can trust somebody and then you end up being wrong.”
Lawrence is full of praise for Thieriot and Elizabeth Shue, playing her mother. She reserves her highest regard for Thieriot and his ability to switch on the characters of the sinister and deliciously odd Max. She calls it “very strange and scary” and goes so far as to offer this nugget of advice to herself.
“Elissa, I know that the neighborhood boy seems exciting, and mysterious, and cool, and different, and misunderstood and you’re gonna be the one that understands him.
“But just don’t go over to his house. Just stay at home and don’t go down in his basement…”
Filming in what she describes as “this random house in the middle of the woods” Lawrence is aware that the intimate creepiness of House at the End of the Street will be in direct contrast to the epic scale of 2013’s The Hunger Games: Catching Fire which Beaufoy is adapting from Suzanne Collins’s novel.
If her $10m price tag is anything to go by, she will need to decide between making the films she wants to make and watching her bank account swell. At 22, she has many years ahead of her.
House at the End of the Street is on general release.
Fame came quickly for 14-year-old
Jennifer Lawrence was ‘discovered’ in New York at the age of 14.
She travelled there in 2004 to audition for a number of talent and model agencies and landed work almost immediately.
She featured on MTV’s My Super Sweet 16 and played a role in the movie, Devil You Know (2009). A move to Los Angeles became a necessity when she was cast in sitcom The Bill Engvall Show and movies The Poker House (2008) and The Burning Plain (2008). In 2010 her role in Winter’s Bone won Lawrence several awards and the film the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival.
Source: Yorkshire Post