Jennifer Lawrence is the biggest actress in the world right now; do you know why? It is not because she stars in two mega franchises. It is not because she has an off screen personality that makes her accessible and endearing. It’s not even because she is an Oscar winning actress at the sprite age of 23. It’s because she has found a collaborator in David O. Russell that may be one of the more electric pairings in the last 50 years of cinema.
Both Lawrence and Russell entered 2012 at good places in their careers. Lawrence already had an Oscar nomination, a major franchise under her belt and was months away from adding another. But even after “The Hunger Games” netted the biggest opening for a non-sequel ever, she was still just shy of becoming a true super star.
Russell was coming off his unofficial comeback in 2010 with “The Fighter” and its 7 Oscar nominations, including one for Russell. It was a good place to start after a six-year hiatus, but there were still question marks about whether he had found his voice. Fate would bring these two together on Russell’s next project, “Silver Linings Playbook.”
When “Silver Linings Playbook” premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2012, it was clear a spark was lit. The film received high praise and walked away with the fest’s People’s Choice Award. The free-wheeling, fast talking, chaotic take on the romantic comedy elicited great passion, on both sides of the aisle, but few could argue Lawrence’s electric performance and Russell’s spirited directing. The film became a major Oscar player, being nominated for eight awards, one win for Lawrence and another nomination for Russell. It’s déjà vu just a year later with “American Hustle.”
How many actors have had a major blockbuster, led a franchise, or won Oscars only to fade away soon after. How many directors? Too many to count, unfortunately. So forget the nominations, forget the wins, because the biggest thing that happened for these two artists over the last two years is that they found each other and are building a collaboration that is something cinema gets once in a blue moon.
When you think about great pairings between an actor and a director, chief among them is Martin Scorsese and Robert De Niro. The two legends began their careers in the 1970s and had their first collaboration with 1973’s “Mean Streets.” They would go on to make classics like “Taxi Driver,” “Raging Bull,” and “Goodfellas.” They have worked together a total of seven times. De Niro immersed himself in those roles, and Scorsese knew how to perfectly craft a story around him.
Though it is still early, Russell and Lawrence have the same potential for a legendary collaboration. Lawrence has fit so naturally into the worlds that Russell has created in his last two movies. She is able to spat his break-neck dialogue with precision and effectiveness. He brings the best out of her and she has been vital in successfully bringing his stories to life. Despite their 32-year age difference, it seems as though these two were made for each other.
There are of course, detractors to Russell and Lawrence’s work. “She’s too young for these roles,” “he’s too scattered,” “the movies won’t hold up,” etc. Despite these protests, critics have responded to the work. Audiences have responded to the work. A Russell film is a hotly anticipated thing again, and everyone wants to know what Lawrence will do next.
Also, hindsight is 20/20. Scorsese and De Niro were not immune to the bashes of critics when their films were released. The fact that they challenge people and stir debate is just another key part of what puts Russell and Lawrence on a similar plane to their legendary peers.
Many directors like working with a particular group of actors, but few pairings have ever garnered the same kind of cache as Scorsese and De Niro. Russell’s own roll call of actors has been small over his last three films, with Christian Bale, Amy Adams and Bradley Cooper not only appearing in two of his last three films, but each have two Oscar nominations of their own. The difference, Lawrence is always the one people talk about when they walk out of the theater.
There are reports that Russell and Lawrence are considering another go-around with the story of Miracle Mop inventor Joy Mangano. Here’s hoping things come through on that deal, or any project these two want to make. There is little in Hollywood right now that can draw as much excitement as another Jennifer Lawrence and David O. Russell movie.
(This article first appeared on lenoirauteur.com)