By now, I’ve recommended the movie Room to just about everyone I know. Everyone willing to endure my adulations, anyhow. I’ve advertised the film on its potency as a tearjerker, the tragically topical intrigue of its premise, and, of course, the brilliance of its heroine: Brie Larson, an actress right on the cusp of becoming a household name. Those of us immutably tethered to the pop culture sphere have known about Larson for some time — quite some time, in the case of our most dutiful representatives — but the surrounding stratum of the normal world is only now committing Larson’s face and name to memory.
I’ve sold Room on the aptitude of “the ex-girlfriend from The Spectacular Now” (to my romance-loving mother), “the love interest from 21 Jump Street” (to my comedy-affixed friends), “the evil gal from Scott Pilgrim vs. the World” (to my geeky roommate), and “the star of Short Term 12” (to my psychologist). Only in touting the merits of Larson’s performance in Room did I realize that she has, over the past few years, planted seeds in every corner of the cinematic garden.
Larson has founded precedent in fertile soils. She has played alongside the Noah Baumbach/Greta Gerwig power duo with a role in Greenberg, operated under the direction of ever-inclining superstar Joseph Gordon-Levitt in Don Jon, tiptoed into the realm of the increasingly elusive “adult drama” by way of Mark Wahlberg’s The Gambler, and proved her might on the battlefields of Judd Apatow’s expansive comedy empire. No matter what your (or, more impressively, your somewhat less pop culture literate friends’ and relatives’) big screen tastes, she’s established a knack therewith.
Throughout this period of imbuing comedies and dramas alike with her talents, Larson has nevertheless kept her off screen identity close to the vest. Perhaps by virtue of such transformative acting has the connective tissue between Larson’s performances been fundamentally overlooked, in stark contrast to cohorts like the aforementioned Gerwig, her Spectacular Now costar Shailene Woodley, and demographic kingpin — why don’t we ever say “queenpin?” — Jennifer Lawrence (who, in inheriting Larson’s throne as Amy Schumer’s screen sister, gleaned enough hype to warrant a three-picture contract right out the gate).
Though Short Term 12 was an exemplary headlining debut for Larson, the picture’s insistently indie tenor may have kept its star from accruing due attention from the Academy and the general public. Though seeming to feed a broader appetite, Room is no less a feat of directorial artistry than the previous Larson starrer. Neither she nor director Lenny Abrahamson (of the terrific 2014 film Frank) settle for the bare minimum, an epidemic among innately emotional Oscar-friendly pieces such as Room.
Exceeding expectation, the pair makes Room a good deal more than “Oscar-friendly,” and without expensing that characteristic in the process. The smart money calls Larson a favorite for Best Actress this year, by virtue not of a physical transformation or painstaking screen disease. It’s every magnetic high, low, and in-between that she gifts unto the challenging picture that has earned Larson this confidence, and that will doubtlessly earn her the championship of viewers.
Beyond an Oscar, Room will grant Larson the household stature she deserves, and that households across America deserve to have access to. Knowing that a screwball comedy, a high school romance, indie drama, or adventure film benefits from the talents of a supporting Larson will soon be reason enough to check such pictures out. And the starring roles that Room is certain to beget for the actress will be even bigger priorities.
Images: A24 (2); Cinedigm/Demarest Films