Jennifer Lawrence Deserves Better Than a Trainwreck Like mother!
Jennifer Lawrence starred in a movie that opened this past weekend. If you didn’t know this, you’re not alone – the film (mother!) was a certifiable box-office flop. Those who did see it apparently hated it.
As trainwrecks go, mother! had it all. A pair of talented, well-respected stars in Lawrence and Javier Bardem. One of the best directors in the game today (Darren Aronofsky). A trailer that portrayed the film as something; a film that portrayed itself as something else altogether. A (spoiler alert!) bait-and-switch ending that plays as religious allegory, not the horror thriller some expected. Critical confusion. Audience revolt. The list goes on.
The less said about mother!, the better. But this mess of a film gives us a chance to talk about Jennifer Lawrence, an actress who had a mess of a weekend herself and is an actress who really needs a hit. It’s time to ask the question – is Jennifer Lawrence capable of opening a movie?
Now, this is not to question whether Lawrence can carry a movie with her name atop the marquee. If anything, she’s displayed a unique ability to lift mediocre material to something superior. She was great in Joy, even if the material let her down. She was damn good in Passengers, a film whose botched marketing campaign sunk it before the film ever hit theaters, and should consider reteaming with Chris Pratt onscreen at some point. Hell, she’s even good in mother!, which will not be an awards-show contender come early next year, mostly because it is not a very good movie.
However, whether Lawrence can open a movie financially is a fair question. And, no, boffo box office for X-Men and Hunger Games installments doesn’t count, as those are pre-established properties that essentially sell themselves. In fact, Lawrence hasn’t anchored a non-franchise hit since 2013, when American Hustle raked in more than $250 million worldwide. Since then, non-franchise box office totals include just a shade over $100 million for Joy, a good but not great total, particularly for a Christmas-season awards contender. Passengers did earn more than $100 million domestically, but was still viewed as a relative disappointment. Now there’s the outright disappointment of mother!, which opened with a paltry $7.5 million over the weekend.
None of this is to disparage Jennifer Lawrence the actress, who easily ranks among the most charming, talented, charismatic figures in Hollywood today. And her penchant for oversharing and storytelling humanizes her to an extent, inasmuch as a rich, famous, attractive person can be humanized. Hell, her relative inability to open a movie is not altogether on her either.
Simply put, we live in a cinematic age where franchises sell themselves, and by extension, movie stars have been marginalized by design. After all, if you’re a studio looking to start a franchise, why invest in some expensive, high-profile star when it’s far cheaper and easier to kickstart a franchise and let it create the stars. Remember, Vin Diesel wasn’t much of a name when the Fast & Furious franchise began, and the billion-dollar Avengers franchise essentially started on the back of Robert Downey, Jr., now Hollywood royalty but who at the time of the first Iron Man film was far from a sure thing.
There was a time when placing a name such as Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, Jim Carrey, Will Smith or Adam Sandler atop the movie poster was pretty much a guarantee to open big and rake in profits. Those days are long gone. Even big-name stars like George Clooney and Brad Pitt are famous more for their charitable endeavors and personal lives than their movies of late.
But Jennifer Lawrence seemed different. She came off humble and personable enough to be relatable, and yet possessed enough star wattage to stand out onscreen. That’s how she rose to prominence in the first place, playing flawed characters in standout films like Winter’s Bone and The Silver Linings Playbook. She rode that wave into both the X-Men and Hunger Games franchises, choices that proved wise in that she was able to keep her name in the papers while her agents selected her next non-franchise project. For a while, this formula proved quite successful. Cracks, however, began to form.
Source by houstonpress..