Photo courtesy of Wikipedia Commons
On “Draft Day,” a new track by Drake, the actress Jennifer Lawrence (a.k.a. JLaw, which sounds like an online law degree) receives a gloating endorsement from the Canadian rapper: “Jennifer Lawrence you can really get it / I mean for real, girl, you know I had to do it for yah.”
This is enormous praise. It’s so big the Daily Mail had to ask, “Will She [Rihanna] Get Jealous?” If Rihanna is jealous of Lawrence, she isn’t envious because of her boyfriend’s Dylanesque lyrics. The only reason she has to hate Lawrence is the universal pearl clutching over the plucky Kentuckian. The world will never love Rihanna the way they love Lawrence. Where girls sing along to Rihanna, both grandmas and horny 14-year-old boys, two totally different demographics, love Lawrence.
Anne Hathaway is Lawrence’s closest contemporary. Like Hathaway, Lawrence’s career good fortune started when she was in her 20s. Lawrence was barely legal when she became famous for starring in Winter’s Bone, the movie that allowed her to crawl out of the indie slime and get in front of Ryan Seacrest, Hollywood’s groundhog, and Hathaway was rounding out her teen years when The Princess Diaries came out, making us forget about Audrey Hepburn for three minutes.
Hathaway’s 2000s winning streak continued through groundbreaking work like Ella Enchanted, The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement, The Devil Wears Prada, and Becoming Jane. Things got weird in 2008 with Rachel Getting Married, a generally forgettable piece of angst that was Hathaway’s first “take me seriously, dear members of the Academy” role. The movie landed her an Oscar nomination, yet ever since then we’ve hated Hathaway. Do we hate her lack of sincerity, or her breathless eagerness? Do we find her pathetic, or are we simply sick of looking at her and her shtick?
Whatever it is, it is enough. Hathaway winning Best Supporting Actress at the Oscars for her role as Fantine in Les Misérables felt like a mercy move by the Academy so she would leave us alone. (And don’t worry—she returns to the movies this year in Song One. She plays a PhD candidate in archeology who strikes up a relationship with a folk musician after she returns to Brooklyn to see her ailing brother, who is also a folk musician. Take my eyes!) But Hathaway got her Oscar, and that’s all, let’s be honest, that really matters at this point for such a two-dimensional actress.
Lawrence, however, topped Hathaway’s Best Supporting Actress statue with an Oscar for Best Actress. “JLaw for the win!” everyone said. She was 22, not an ancient relic like Hathaway was when she won a measly Best Supporting Actress trophy at age 30. This year the Academy nominated Lawrence for Best Supporting Actress for her performance in American Hustle. Shockingly, she lost to absolute upstart Lupita Nyong'o, but that’s OK—Lawrence already won an Oscar, so this year's nomination was for fun and so she could pose in that selfie with Portia de Rossi’s wife.
After all, we love Lawrence when she falls down, stands up, and laughs like an adult baby. (Oh, Jennifer!) We loved her when she talked about her butt plug on Conan and discussed her uneven breasts on Jimmy Kimmel Live. Oh. And how could we forget Lawrence's unruly middle finger? As she told Empire, “It's so funny how much I freaked out when I realized that happened [flipping off Oscar photographers]. I told my publicist, saying, ‘Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God...’ and now I am like, ‘That's probably my proudest moment in my entire career.’”
The persona Lawrence and her publicist have chosen for her—the Calamity Jane girlfriend, the embarrassing yet talented daughter, the personification of the self-aggrandized millennial generation—certainly sells tickets and merchandise. It also smacks of the same phoniness that made Hathaway a pariah. Lawrence’s acting ability is more caricature than originality; she drops one-liners effortlessly. She’s believable, but she's not ageless or transformative as an actress—and that’s her downfall.
Of course, Lawrence is a jokester and someone you’d want to sit with as you wait to file your taxes. The fake screw-ups and mouth diarrhea make her a likeable, approachable star, but her talents don’t go much further than that. Her range, like Hathaway’s talent, is limited. Hathaway does best when acting mousy and desperate; Lawrence delivers bravado and incredible sass. Neither shtick is enough to carry an entire career that spans more than ten years, though it does beg for a sisterhood road movie starring the two actresses.
Lawrence is having her moment right now. She is Hollywood’s darling, America’s foul-mouthed sweetheart. She’s one of us—laughing, farting, and drinking all the time. She's keeping it real, folks! But her approach to her persona will eventually melt like it did for Hathaway and even bigger actresses, like Sarah Palin. When you gamble with a public persona that draws more attention to you than your actual work, you won’t lose gigs. You’ll just lose the status that grants you the right to be taken seriously by anyone other than your rabid fan base.
And yet this appears to be the path our actress of the people has chosen for herself. Bon voyage, JLaw!