Welcome to the latest edition of 24 Frames. Andrew Jamieson will be guiding you through the exciting, confusing and often brilliant world of 'film'. Expect news, trailers and plenty of opinion.


The 'Jennifer Lawrence' Edition

Unless you have been living on the international space station for the last few months, then you're probably aware that the sequel to the Hunger Games 'Catching Fire' is released this month. While I have my own critical concerns about the first movie and find its contextual complexity at odds with some of the storytelling, there is one question that is beyond denial: is Jennifer Lawrence the best thing about the franchise? Yes. Here I will offer my take on the actress and why she has the enduring qualities to place herself amongst the cinematic legends of old and new.

I first saw Jennifer Lawrence in Debra Granik's wonderfully haunting and underplayed drama Winters Bone (2010). In the movie she played a young woman struggling to maintain the well-being of her siblings while attempting to hunt down her wayward drug addicted father. While the landscapes in the movie offered a stunningly bleak canvas for the macabre events depicted to play out, what stood out in the movie was Lawrence. In the movie Lawrence plays Ree. She has to hustle and look after her family while dealing with unflinching horrors and obstacles. There is a scene in the movie when Ree goes into the woods and finally breaks down in tears. This scene is pivotal as it lets the audience underneath the skin of such a strong character. If this scene isn't played to perfection then the rest of the movie would seldom fail to work, but Jennifer Lawrence is able to allow Debra Granik's lens to see this character and Lawrence laid bare. What stands out about Winters Bone is the fact that it featured a beautiful young woman whose movie character was defined by her own heart and the emotional connection she had to her family and a small world. In a world where women in cinema struggle to find diverse roles, this part stands out as it was a wonderful sight to behold.

  • Jennifer Lawrence in Winters Bone

I then saw Jennifer Lawrence in a movie she had made before Winters Bone, Guillermo Arriaga's wildly pretentious The Burning Plain (2008). Again, here she was one of the most memorable elements to the movie, despite the tiny role she had in the picture. The same could be said of her roles in mediocre fare such as The Beaver (2011) and House at the End of the Street (2012). Even amongst the likes of Mel Gibson, Jodie Foster and Elisabeth Shue, Lawrence manages to still be the person I remember most from those movies despite their flaws and failings.

My favourite Jennifer Lawrence role to date is the role for which she won her first Oscar, David O'Russell's wonderful Silver Linings Playbook (2012). The character she plays, Tiffany, is a wonderfully eccentric character who offers a funny, intimate and rewarding persona to the movie. Most movies tend to deal with mental health issues as some kind of archetypal storytelling trope, while in this movie the mental health issues were not a vacuum for the audience to throw in their own prejudices about a subject that is wildly misunderstood in the public sphere. The main thing that I loved about Lawrence's performance was that she ably assisted the script. Now this may seem like an easy thing to do, as of course she is an actress, but in terms of the story, it has to keep you wondering until the end as to whether or not the two friends will eventually become lovers. Throughout the movie, Lawrence does what she does better than anybody and portrays outward strength and fun and then, at the movie's conclusion, we finally get a route into her heart. While many find the movie's ending overtly generic and sentimental, the fact that this works so well in the movie is to Lawrence's credit as she dances, runs badly and chats frenetically all the way to an Oscar.

Finally we arrive at Lawrence's work in two huge franchises: The Hunger Games (2012) and X-Men: First Class. I believe X-Men to be a comic book movie that is elevated by Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Fassbender and the Scot, James McAvoy. X-Men is a good movie, but it fails to lift itself beyond the memory of what had come before (hopefully its sequel will cure this as it arrives in 2014). It is Katniss Everdene who defines Lawrence for cinema goers all over the world. In my personal opinion Lawrence saves the first movie from itself. Without her presence it would not have the gravitas that she provides. What I love about her portrayal is the fact that she embodies a female character who can inspire young girls beyond some of the traditional tropes that define the iconic cinematic characters that have come from the pages of teen fiction. To me Katniss is contextually a character like the original Wonder Woman, who was of course the first female superhero. Even if Warner Brothers finally manages a Wonder Woman movie in the next few years then Lawrence has truly stolen their thunder. Lawrence effortlessly manages to convey screen presence and a resolute sense of the hope and belief that femininity places in all of our hearts and frankly she is one of the best actresses in the world.

Finally, I would just like to say that Lawrence herself is refreshing, from her dress malfunctions, to her post Oscar speech. I would just like to pay homage to a woman who is a credit to our cinematic universe. Lawrence catches fire and may those flames never be doused.