Hollywood is a lot like professional sports. You have your A-list talent (or all stars), and then everyone else. You have the folks just starting out, and those nearing the end of their careers. You have those struggling to make the team, and then those who always get work and do it well, but for one reason or another have never reached all-star status, either because they've never played in a big game or because they're usually surrounded by bigger names (with bigger roles).
Kinda like Brie Larson. Here's a girl who's been in a string of recognizable movies and TV shows, and yet she's remained sort of hidden behind other stars. In Scott Pilgrim vs. the World it was Michael Cera and Mary Elizabeth Winstead, and in 21 Jump Street it was Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum. This year's Sundance Film Festival found her costarring in two major titles, The Spectacular Now and Don Jon, except again she's surrounded by people with larger roles. Don't get me wrong -- she's doing good work and it's landing her more parts -- but there's a sense Larson is due for a breakout role. She's due for one of those performances you just can't stop talking about.
She's due for a movie like Short Term 12.
Larson plays a twentysomething staff member in a home for at-risk kids in Short Term 12, which took home the Grand Jury Prize for Narrative Feature from this year's SXSW Film Festival earlier this week. Easily one of the more demanding roles she's ever played, Larson needed to portray a character who was both strong and commanding, but also teetering on the verge of an emotional breakdown. There to support her through thick and thin is her longtime boyfriend and fellow coworker Mason (John Gallagher Jr.), who tries to fight her demons with hard, intense, therapeutic love.
It's powerful and emotional stuff, and Larson owns the movie. She owns it to the point that she's being called the "breakout star" of the festival, joining that long list of actresses who tackle meaty roles in small independent films in the hopes they help transition them to bigger and better things. Jennifer Lawrence was one of those festival darlings when she broke out with Winter's Bone, and a couple of years later she won an Oscar for Best Actress. Lena Dunham also broke out big when her film Tiny Furniture won at SXSW, eventually landing her a hit HBO show (Girls) along with lots of awards and kudos.
Other "breakout stars" haven't fared as well. We're still waiting for Brit Marling and Elizabeth Olsen to impress us the way they did back when films like Another Earth and Martha Marcy May Marlene were all the rage at Sundance, and only time will tell if Short Term 12 helps Brie Larson take full advantage of a role that should put her on Hollywood's "lead actress" radar.
She's absolutely exceptional in this movie, and while the next year may find her again starring alongside bigger names like Olivia Wilde and Jennifer Aniston, there's something special about Larson. Something relatable, unassuming and unexpected, and if given the opportunity (and the right roles), she'll be on the all-star team knocking Oscar nods out of the park in no time.
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