Jennifer Lawrence’s Best Performance Came Before She Was A Major Star

By Christopher Isaac | Published

When most people think of Jennifer Lawrence, the movies that probably pop into their heads are either The Hunger Games or one of the X-Men movies. And to be fair, those were absolutely her huge breakout films. However, they were not her best films, and I would actually even say Jennifer Lawrence’s best movie was one of her first ones that not as many people saw: Winter’s Bone.

Before The Hunger Games

Winter’s Bone came out back in 2010 when Jennifer Lawrence was still just 19 years old. It certainly was not the huge financial hit her later films would be, earning just $16 million against a $2 million budget. However, it did extremely well with critics, earning a nomination for Best Picture at that year’s Academy Awards and even earning Jennifer Lawrence her first Best Actress nomination, not to mention the slew of other nominations and wins Winter’s Bone received.

A Slow Burn Drama

If you are used to Jennifer Lawrence from her action movie days, Winter’s Bone is a whole different look at what she can do as an actress. She maintains a rural Missouri accent throughout the film as she plays Ree Dolly, a teenager barely scraping by as she tries to take care of her two young siblings. Her mom is sick and unable to work, and she has no idea where her dad is. But some of her dad’s old grudges will necessitate that she quickly find out the truth.

A Desperate Girl And A Troubled Family

There are no moments of outfighting large groups of adversaries like in The Hunger Games, and no witty one-liners like in her comedic films like No Hard Feelings. This is probably the most human role that Jennifer Lawrence has and it makes Winter’s Bone one of her most powerful films.

You can feel Ree’s desperation. Every encounter she has with one of her father’s unhinged family members who are secluded away from the law, the fear is palpable from Ree that if she gets killed, her two young siblings will be left with nobody to care for them.

Very Different From Other Roles

Even if Jennifer Lawrence’s character succeeds, the audience knows that no huge reward is waiting at the end of Winter’s Bone. This is a drama about a girl trying to solve a family mystery so she and her loved ones can go back to their life of lean times in peace. Ree is not an action hero like Mystique from the X-Men. She’s just a desperate girl with no other choice but to go on this brutal journey to try and eke out a meager life for herself.

Available Through Video On Demand


I can certainly understand why Jennifer Lawrence moved on to blockbuster movies after Winter’s Bone. Those later roles undeniably made her a much bigger star. But this is the role that made film makers see the potential in her, and it makes me wish she would return to doing some occasional quieter character films like this.

Even as young as she was here, this remains one of her best acting performances. Winter’s Bone earns 4 out of 5 stars from me, and it is a movie anyone should check out to see what Lawrence can do when tasked with carrying a movie based on her acting rather than big CGI spectacles.

Winter’s Bone is available through Video on Demand from Amazon Prime Video, YouTube, AppleTV, and Google Play.