Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence arrive at the Oscars 2013. Photo: Christopher Polk
If I were to ask you to pick one celebrity to be your BFF, no questions asked, right now, I’d bet good money on the probability that you’d choose Jennifer Lawrence.
And why not? The Silver Linings Playbook star is a hoot: she cracks wise mid-interview, can spar with the best of them (when Jack Nicholson told her “You look like an old girlfriend” she shot back “Really? Do I look like a new one?”), and if paparazzi photos are any indication, likes to hang out by the beach reading, drinking red wine and enjoying a few “jazz cigarettes”.
The internet is teeming with GIF sets featuring Lawrence’s copious bon mots, and every interview she carries out comes crammed with gags and inevitable references to her hearty appetite. Listicles feature reams of her funniest quotes. “I picked up an issue of Cosmopolitan the other day that had tips for job interviews, because I was like, ‘I need to get better at interviews’,” she told Interview. “The article was basically about how to get someone not to hate you in 20 minutes. Every single thing they told you not to do, I was like, ‘I do that every day’.” She is, in many ways, Just Like Us. (Or at least, Just Like We’d Like To Think We Are.)
Jennifer Lawrence topples over on her way to accept her Oscar for Best Actress in "Silver Linings Playbook" during the Academy Awards ceremony 2013. Photo: Kevin Winter
It’s an ease that suffuses her professional life, too, as her Silver Linings and American Hustle director David O. Russell told Vogue this month, “I remember Bradley Cooper and I saying, ‘Is this kid even paying attention?’ Because she’s goofing around or eating my potato chips or making fart jokes. And then all of a sudden, she comes in, and bam! She’s like a lot of great athletes. You see that they stay loose, and that’s how they can be so in-the-moment while under enormous amounts of pressure. If there’s two minutes left in the game, they can come in and do something extraordinary because their jaw is not getting clenched. Jen stays loose. And then she hits a three-point shot from some ridiculous distance and we all just look at each other and go, ‘Wow.’ ”
More importantly, as Russell notes, Lawrence is a terrific actress. Her work in Silver Linings Playbook was so good that, as far as I’m concerned, she could read the phonebook in her pyjamas for the rest of her career. Instead of taking the easy route, however, Lawrence has stuffed her dance card with all manner of intriguing roles, from megaplex fodder (Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games saga, Mystique in X-Men) to independent fare (the aforementioned American Hustle, depression-era drama Serena).
What’s odd about Lawrence’s positioning as a goofy chick you’d love to hang with, though, is the way in which she appears to have been anointed as such by the media: it’s hard to think of any other actresses who are permitted to let it all hang out like Lawrence, or at least any who are celebrated for it.
Anne Hathaway accepts the Best Supporting Actress award for "Les Miserables" onstage during the Oscars earlier this year. Photo: Kevin Winter
A prime example of this strange phenomenon occurred back at Oscar time, when poor Anne Hathaway had the misfortune of being played off against Lawrence’s easy cool. Indeed, Googling “Jennifer Lawrence vs Anne Hathaway” nets a cool 19,000,000 results, and only in very few of them does Hathaway emerge the victor.
Hathaway - who by all accounts is smart, kind, and funny, and who has good politics and lends her fame to a range of fine causes - could never hope to compete on the likeability scale with Lawrence, who by the time she tripped on her way to the podium had been well and truly installed as Hollywood’s Ultimate “Real” Chick. And as Hollywood as taught us time and time again when it comes to women being allowed to stand outside the dominant paradigm, though I’ve now used the Highlander analogy so many times I should probably start paying the filmmakers royalties, there can be only one.
“Much of what we love about Lawrence should also translate to love for Hathaway”, wrote The Cut’s Ann Friedman at the time. “J.Law drew props for confessing ‘I’m starving!’ on the red carpet, but Hathaway has also described how she and Devil Wears Prada co-star Emily Blunt ‘would clutch at each other and cry because we were so hungry.’ Are these really that different?”
In the New Yorker, Sasha Weiss went a step further in her compelling essay In Defense Of The Happy Girl, suggesting that the broad championing of Lawrence could be boiled down to the fact that, unlike Hathaway, she isn’t “girlish”; internalised misogyny at work, in other words: “Let’s take a quick survey of the people who were applauded for their red-carpet performances. A pale, limping Kristin Stewart with her perennial teen-agery pout and a bruise on her arm; Jennifer Lawrence, who is casually funny and naturally sarcastic and is most famous for her tomboyish roles [...] Bruised teen-agers: likeable. Women who seem a little like men, or like they can hang with men: likeable.”
The thing is, few people seem to be able to comprehend the possibility that Lawrence’s cool dude persona could very well be just as calculated as Hathaway’s poise; just how real, after all, can you truly be when you’re a part of what Joni Mitchell sagely called the star-maker machinery?
Then again, whether or not she’s really “real”, there’s something to be said for the fact that purely by existing in her own offbeat way, Lawrence is altering the perception of what it is to be young, female and famous. Who knew that all this time, all we needed to disrupt Hollywood’s narrow notion of successful femininity was more fart jokes?