— Robin Write (@Filmotomy) March 13, 2014
When I once described Brie Larson as a magnetic kind of shape-shifting actress, as she turned up here and there on film and TV (even Community, for instance), it was near-enough a year before her Academy Award win for Room. And I was drawn to her varying, sporadic activity immediately, through those early roles that nobody seems to talk about now. Larson can turn her talented hands to anything it seems, the Oscar didn’t prove that, those of us that have followed her acting journey long before that, know the score.
To kick off Actober at Filmotomy, as we assigned one actress or actor to every day of the month, we begin with Brianne Sidonie Desaulniers. We loved her in Room, of course, but we wanted to shout about 5 other memorable performances from the actress, in such a short, but prospering career. In a more open-minded awards season mentality, Larson’s name ought to have been mentioned in the same sentence as Oscar nomination more than once. For sure. Take a look at these, see them again, whether your first time or not.
Oh, and today she turns 29 years-old. So look, it’s her party, and she’ll smile if she wants to. Happy Birthday, Brie.
Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010) as Natalie V. “Envy” Adams
Perhaps what makes Brie Larson somewhat unrecognizable in Edgar Wright’s Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, is not just the zingy blonde hair and vibrant red lipstick, but a character immersed in layered transition. Sure, comic book kind of villainess, but once upon a time “Envy” Adams was Scott Pilgrim’s ex-girlfriend, Natalie – “You used to be so nice.” he says. Now a rock star vixen, with a biting attitude to match the pounding rhythm of her entrance song, Envy oozes sex appeal, death glares, and a magnetic presence.
Larson is unforgettable, intimidating and dazzling us, the audience too, while still showing glimmers towards the end of the film of the sensitivity the actress portrays so well. Envy is a larger than life character, bringing all the ferocious energy one would expect from a kind of cartoonish world. What is more invigorating, is that Larson appears to be really enjoying herself. – – – – – Robin Write
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Short Term 12 (2013) as Grace
In a fairer world, Short Term 12 would have been Brie Larson’s first Academy Award nomination, if not outright win. As Grace, a supervisor in a troubled teens group home, the then 22 year old actress gives herself emotionally and physically over to the role in a nuanced performance that feels achingly real. A lesser performer would have lost themselves in the layered emotion of past trauma and an uncertain future, but Larson plays it with such honesty she breaks your heart and you thank her for it.
While Grace is at the heart of the story, Short Term 12 is a true ensemble piece allowing Larson’s natural chemistry with her co-stars including her fellow future stars Lakeith Stanfield and Rami Malek to shine through. Fierce but loving, uncompromising and complex, this is the quintessential Brie Larson performance. Sorry Room. – – – – – Jo Geaney
Trainwreck (2015) as Kim
While certainly a big-screen platform for Amy Schumer, Trainwreck was also remembered for a sibling relationship portrayed with such poignancy and realism for a rapturous comedy. And while Schumer goes to town on the socially reckless, free-spirited sister, Amy, it is Brie Larson’s solid turn as Kim that provides the film’s moral core. Kim is all too tired of Amy’s party girl lifestyle, feeling she is neglecting not only their ill father, but herself.
At the same time, Kim offers Amy immediate reassurance in her commitment-phobia, and guides her further down the path of adulthood. Larson once again demonstrates her versatility, balancing her dramatic and comic side to perfection here. It’s a huge compliment that Larson disappears into her character of Kim, a role that perhaps unjustifiably was over-shadowed by the Oscar-winning role in Room. – – – – – Robin Write
Free Fire (2016) as Justine
Mere weeks after her 2016 Oscar win, Larson hit the big screen again in Ben Wheatley’s Free Fire. As Justine, she is the lone woman in a sea of men both on our screens and in the male dominated arms dealing world of the film. She’s steely, manipulative and effortlessly cool. Always self aware, she is the living embodiment of the female eyeroll.
And while no-one comes off particularly likeable in this shootout, she is arguably the closest thing we have to a hero in this story and if you are rooting for anyone by the end, it’s Justine. Early on she tells us she is in this deal for herself and by the end, despite having a choice of favourites from the incredibly strong ensemble, we’re in it for her too. – – – – – Jo Geaney
The Glass Castle (2017) as Jeannette Walls
In 2005, writer Jeannette Walls published her memoir The Glass Castle, chronicling her relationship with her strange, impoverished, and utterly dysfunctional family. The book was adapted to the big screen in 2017, and as an avid fan of the memoir, I was a little apprehensive about who would play Jeannette. As a child from a very similar family to Walls, Jeannette was someone I could identify with. Brie Larson manages to capture that strong-willed individual who hasn’t allowed her past to hold her back.
There’s a determination in her character that speaks volumes to many children who a haunted by their upbringing. Larson’s Jeannette is a woman who is trying to outrun her past, but at the same time realising that it has helped shaped the person is today. There’s something comforting about that. This was an overlooked performance in 2017, and it’s one that again proves Larson’s capability as an actress, and with the right material she can deliver one hell of a performance. – – – – – Bianca Garner