This December, a highly anticipated $90-ish million science-fiction romance, Passengers, hits theaters, starring Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence. For her role in the movie, Lawrence, already an Oscar winner for Silver Linings Playbook and a nominee for Winter’s Bone, American Hustle and Joy, earned a whopping $20 million against 30 percent of the profit once the movie breaks even. (Pratt, meanwhile, pulled down $12 million.) But debuting against mega-promoted spinoff Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and presold, gamer-friendly Assassin’s Creed, Passengers is a massive roll of the dice.
For one thing, it’s based on an original screenplay, not a comic book, old TV series or franchise. For another, it’s as heavy on emotion as it is on thrills, laughs and chills. For yet another, it comes on the heels of some unexpected stumbles for Lawrence–last year’s critically bruised but financially successful Joy and 2014’s Serena, a period drama that pretty much went straight to video despite her pairing with frequent costar Bradley Cooper. Add it all up and here’s a sure bet: Passengers will have every bean counter in town eyeing the box-office takings to settle the question, Is Jennifer Lawrence a bona fide 21st century star worth the breathless praise and sky-high salaries?
We’re going to say a big old yes. Here are a few reasons why.
At just 26 years old, Lawrence continually proves that she’s not only one hell of a dramatic actress but also a brilliantly shrewd, daffy screwball comedienne–arguably one of the best of the latter since the days of raucous, unpretentious beauties like Carole Lombard and the young Lucille Ball. Like her predecessors, Lawrence is so alive on camera that you pretty much can’t take your eyes off her, and she radiates a rare combination of enormous likability, funkiness, vulnerability and powerhouse strength. Imagine any other contemporary young star playing the tough, smart widow in Silver Linings Playbook and the hot-wired New Jersey scam artist’s wife in American Hustle in addition to the arrow-slinging action heroine Katniss Everdeen—which she developed into a signature role that helped power four Hunger Games movies to over $2 billion worldwide.
She’s aces off-screen, too. While so many of her contemporary actors seem buttoned-down, remote-controlled and calculated, Lawrence is a firecracker—untamed and unguarded. She swears like a sailor and she makes no bones about loving pizza and French fries: “If anybody even tries to whisper the word ‘diet,’ I’m like, 'You can go fuck yourself.’” She tripped up a flight of stairs in front of 37.3 million U.S. viewers seconds before collecting her first Best Actress Academy Award and then, later that night, charmed an entire room of reporters by admitting that she “did a shot” just before coming in to face them and saying, “What went through my mind when I fell down? A bad word that I can’t say, that start’s with ‘F.’”
She’s shown her awesome prowess at photobombing, best of all with Sarah Jessica Parker at the 2013 Metropolitan Gala and Taylor Swift at the 2014 Golden Globes. She spoke up about the 2014 photo-hacking incident that impacted her and other famous women, calling it “a sexual crime.” She has publicly geeked out over meeting Bill Murray, Jeff Bridges and Jack Nicholson, jet-ski’d with Amy Schumer and taken the high road in her romantic relationships with such all-over-the-map guys as Chris Martin, X-Men co-star Nicholas Hoult and, reportedly, Black Swan director Darren Aronofsky, with whom she made a film this year.
It’s a hot-one-day, cold-the-next world but, really, what else could Jennifer Lawrence do to make us fall in love with her any more than we already have? We have no idea, but we’re betting that she might one day win over those who’ve knocked her—like Chloe Sevigny, who called her “too crass,” and Jared Leto, who said of her various public falls, “You know, I’m starting to wonder if this is a bit of an act." She’s solid gold in our book.