"Even as far back as when I started acting at 14, I know I've never considered failure."
My point in opening with all that praise is simple. Say what you will about the progress Hollywood has made, but it's a revolving door for actresses. With a new "it" girl seemingly twice a decade, Jennifer Lawrence seems poised to be Julia Roberts 2.0: younger at her breakout, more box office appeal, and much smarter project selection. Her appearance in X-Men: First Class and the upcoming X-Men: Days of Future Past show she isn't going to pigeon-hole herself in movies that appeal mainly to women. She doesn't lean on her sexuality the way Kate Beckinsale does, but doesn't shy away from it like Charlize Theron. It's been a long time since we had a "She's the only name you need on the poster" actress, and while we kept waiting for Keira Knightley, Natalie Portman, or Anne Hathaway to claim the vacant title, Jennifer Lawrence swooped in and took it in the span of 3 years.
What her short filmography allows her is flexibility, and no film or role seems to really faze her. The gravitas she brought to Silver Linings Playbook is incredible given her age and relative inexperience. She will inevitably make a clunker at some point, especially given her willingness to take chances (after achieving must-watch status, even Leonardo DiCaprio gave us the nearly-unwatchable J. Edgar), but her early career has already given us a glimpse at what that will mean. Until recently, she was still having movies released that had been shot before her big break (like a Cabin in the Woods or Red Dawn for Chris Hemsworth), with one of them in particular, House at the End of the Street, easily being elevated from "below average" to "halfway decent" solely based on the strength of her performance.
American Hustle should answer just about the only remaining question about her: how will she do in an ensemble cast? From the early previews, Christian Bale looks to be at the top of his game, and it will be interesting to see if she rises to the occasion. First Class had her fade a bit and not really stand out, but that can be explained by the character's lack of a lead role, meaning Hustle could be our first real look at how she does when surrounded by other stars. Will she cement her place as the best young actress, or reveal herself as something of a "Tom Cruise": someone who needs the lead to thrive? At 23 years old, it's an impressive question to be asking about her regardless of the answer.