CATEGORIES Interviews

Nineteen-year-old Jennifer Lawrence is right in the middle of the "This feels like a dream" stage of her life. There is a gentle kind of wonderment hovering around her, and to be truthful, it's lovely talking to someone when they're in that place.

Lawrence's dream state is coming by way of the film 'Winter's Bone', which won the top prize at this year's Sundance Film Festival -- a perfect venue for that kind of film, which is understated, magnificently cast, exquisitely directed and quintessentially American. It's a true backwoods masterpiece filmed entirely on location in the Ozarks of Southwestern Missouri. Adapted from Daniel Woodrell's novel of the same name, 'Winter's Bone' is a fine example of Ozarks noir, as many critics have called it, and that's employing the true definition of "noir".

Jennifer has the lead – a character named Ree Dolly, a proud, poor teenager responsible for the welfare of her two kid siblings and her mentally-damaged mother. Her father, on the run from the law (he cooks meth, often in concert with kin), has put their house and land up for his bail bond and then missed his court appearance. Ree has to track him down and if she fails, she and her family will be turned out into the Ozark woods.
Nineteen-year-old Jennifer Lawrence is right in the middle of the "This feels like a dream" stage of her life. There is a gentle kind of wonderment hovering around her, and to be truthful, it's lovely talking to someone when they're in that place.

Lawrence's dream state is coming by way of the film 'Winter's Bone', which won the top prize at this year's Sundance Film Festival -- a perfect venue for that kind of film, which is understated, magnificently cast, exquisitely directed and quintessentially American. It's a true backwoods masterpiece filmed entirely on location in the Ozarks of Southwestern Missouri. Adapted from Daniel Woodrell's novel of the same name, 'Winter's Bone' is a fine example of Ozarks noir, as many critics have called it, and that's employing the true definition of "noir".

Jennifer has the lead – a character named Ree Dolly, a proud, poor teenager responsible for the welfare of her two kid siblings and her mentally-damaged mother. Her father, on the run from the law (he cooks meth, often in concert with kin), has put their house and land up for his bail bond and then missed his court appearance. Ree has to track him down and if she fails, she and her family will be turned out into the Ozark woods.

On screen, Ree Dolly is a child. A teen, really. Circumstantially tough, situationally subdued. She speaks plainly. Her gaze is level and direct as needed. She is pretty, but made plain by her below-the-poverty-line rural environment. At the start, audiences reflexively want to sympathize with her poverty, but the character of Ree Dolly has a lean pride and that disallows sympathy. What she does permit is an appreciation, even admiration, for her intrepid loyalty to her family.

In person, Jennifer Lawrence is much taller that Ree presents on screen. In person, Jennifer is golden blonde; Ree was blanched, winter pale. Where actress and character intersect is determination. "I knew I was right for this character," she explains during an interview at Toronto's Park Hyatt hotel. "I knew I could do it and I knew I wanted to so badly. But you never know if producers are going to hire you. I was anxious waiting to find out."



It is entirely possible this willowy young woman's fierce streak is a by-product of genetics. IMDB's trivia section lists that Jennifer is the only girl to be born on the Lawrence side of her family in 50 years. That's a powerful wallop of genealogy with which to herald one into the workforce.

"Even as far back as when I started acting at 14, I know I've never considered failure," she continues. "I don't know if this is why everything has worked so well and I'm not sure I'd recommend this kind of thinking to anyone else, but I've always known I'd be successful in acting. I have certainly worked for it. In fact, I've worked my ass off for it, and I've never had a feeling of entitlement. It can sound so easy, but it never is. I don't know if 'Winter's Bone' has changed my thinking about force of will, but it is the first time a character and I have had the same kind of thinking."

Leading up to the time she was cast in 'Winter's Bone', Jennifer had done the requisite appearances on series television ('Monk', ''Cold Case', 'Medium') and then jumped into feature films with 'Garden Party', 'The Poker House' (directed by 'Point Break's Lori Petty) which garnered her a Los Angeles Film Festival Outstanding Performance Award, and, moving way up the food chain,' The Burning Plain', opposite Charlize Theron and Kim Basinger.

This film brought Jennifer the Marcello Mastroianni Award at the 2008 Venice Film Festival. There was a brief-but-worthwhile jaunt back on television with a recurring role on 'The Bill Engvall Show' that earned her a Young Artist Award for Outstanding Young Performers in a TV Series. Her upcoming film, a comedy/drama called 'The Beaver' directed by Jodie Foster, co-starring Foster along with Mel Gibson and 'Star Trek's Anton Yelchin has the earmark of a solid future in the business.

As for the fun quotient on 'Winter's Bone', if the choice came down to chopping wood (not nearly as easy as Jennifer makes it look) or having to gut a squirrel, the answer is chopping wood.

"You could ask me about anything and compare it to cutting up a squirrel, and I would choose the other. I wanted to be a doctor, too! That was gross. I can't even really watch it. That was nasty. I know squirrels are like rats with bushy tails, but it's cute! It's an animal and I was, like, Ohhhhhhhhh."

A quick background check to find out if Jennifer's squirrel-skinning aversion was the result of vegetarian ideals. "Nooooo!" she laughed, " I'm from Kentucky, for god's sake!"

Catch Jennifer in 'Winter's Bone', which opens in theaters in the US on June 11, and in Canada on June 18.