It doesn't come out for another three weeks, but American Hustle, the newest film from Silver Linings Playbook director David O. Russell, is already promised to be the Next Big Thing. Over the weekend, the film had its first major screening, and while no official reviews have been released, early reactions imply that American Hustle is poised to win all the Oscars come February.
The fact that the movie itself is good is not much of a surprise, considering how great those previews were and how reliable a director Russell is (before Silver Linings, he helmed The Fighter and I ♥ Huckabees, among others). Yet the fact that much of the praise for the film is for the performances of its cast, which includes Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner and Jennifer Lawrence, comes as a shock, if only because it's giving us a bad case of déjà vu. Last year, three of those five actors were nominated for Oscars, and one of them — Lawrence — took home a trophy. If the early hype for American Hustle turns into real acclaim come the film's Dec. 13 release date, then many of its stars could easily find themselves back on the short list for Academy Awards.
While this is undoubtedly great for Adams, Cooper, Bale and Renner, all of whom are (or in Cooper's case, are becoming) respected actors, it could potentially be a detriment to Lawrence. That may seem ridiculous — how could an Oscar nomination be a bad thing? — but for Lawrence, being nominated for or winning an Oscar just a year after garnering one for Silver Linings Playbook could actually hurt, not help her career.
Currently, she's America's sweetheart, the potty-mouthed, instantly-quotable star of interviews and red carpets. Her every soundbite gets captured, her every haircut analyzed. Right now, that's a good thing; her accessibility makes her likable and relatable, way more down-to-earth than the vast majority of her peers. Yet she's teetering on the edge of being overexposed, and the amount of press she receives will only increase if she receives another Oscar. Before long, Lawrence could find herself unintentionally heading down the path of another once loved, Oscar-winning, now hated star: Anne Hathaway.
This isn't Lawrence's fault, of course (nor was it Hathaway's, for that matter), but the media's. Thanks to outlets like Twitter, Buzzfeed, and Instagram, there's no limit on how saturated the celebrity landscape can get when the world decides to focus its attention on one particular person. The moment we decided Lawrence was the new It Girl, the media pounced, and suddenly, she was everywhere you looked — on the cover of Vogue, in ads for Dior, as the subject of "10 Reasons We Wish She Was Our BFF" slideshows. The attention died down for a few months when Lawrence was busy filming and our attention slid to all things Miley Cyrus, but the second promotion began for Catching Fire, her media coverage skyrocketed. The movie's been released, but now that the buzz is beginning for American Hustle, there's no sign of the press slowing down anytime soon. And if she wins an Oscar three months from now? Lawrence will be everywhere — and we'll begin to start to hate her.
In general, attention for a celebrity isn't bad, but when it's at the level that Lawrence's is, it can be dangerous. When we feel a star's getting too overexposed, we take it out on them, not the media doing the exposing. Mostly, it's a good thing that Lawrence is likable, of course, but it turns into a detriment when "JENNIFER LAWRENCE IS LIKABLE" is blared at us from the media every single day. And so, inevitably, we will turn on her, criticizing her for being "annoying" or "obnoxious" and dismissing each once-lovable soundbite as pre-planned and insincere. It's what happened to Hathaway, to Katherine Heigl, to so many other stars we used to love but now don't, and while it's certainly not fair, it's a truth of today's media-saturated world.
The problem is that there's no right way to be an A-list celebrity. Take Lawrence's polar opposite, Jessica Chastain. Chastain is likely a nice, friendly person, but she makes intense effort to keep her life private and her quotes rare. The casual fan knows little about her, despite the fact that she's been nominated for two Oscars and is one of Hollywood's most in-demand actors. While this works in favor in terms of getting roles and gaining her peers' respect, it creates distance between her and the public. We admire Jessica Chastain, but we don't like her, because we know nothing about who she is. Despite the good attitude she might very well have in real life, she comes across as icy and aloof, certainly not the image any actress wants to have in today's Tweet-filled world.
Twenty, even ten years ago, this wasn't a problem. An actress wasn't expected to be both talented and likable the same way that they are now, and when they did happen to be both, it wasn't nearly as huge a deal. There wasn't close to the same amount of media, so someone like Lawrence would never be at risk for being overexposed, and someone like Chastain wouldn't find herself the face of criticism for simply wanting to act and not be the country's best friend.
Look at Meryl Streep; when she came on the scene in the '70s and '80s, she quickly became one of Hollywood's biggest and most well-known talents, yet there wasn't nearly the same amount of concern over how she was perceived by the press as there undoubtedly would be a few decades later. Today, someone like Streep, who won two Oscars in five years, would be just another Lawrence- or Chastain-like victim of the media, a talented actor forced into being labeled "lovable" or "cold", depending on how accessible she chose to make herself seem.
There is an in-between, of course, but it's reserved for celebrities who came into fame in a different era than Lawrence or Chastain. People like Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Aniston, and Natalie Portman all receive huge amounts of attention and are judged by the press and public, but they're never at risk of facing career death by overexposure. Their fame came in the '90s and early '00s, when the Internet and live-streams weren't there to analyze their every move. Lawrence and Chastain are in a rare group of celebrities who gained fame in the Twitter Age, and because of this, they suffer.
The actresses' fates aren't set in stone, though. There's always a chance that Lawrence could win that second Oscar and still find herself a media darling, or that Chastain could continue avoiding press and not see the public's interest wane. I truly hope that happens, because both actresses deserve to have lifelong success. Likable or not, they're two of the most talented actors in the industry, and hopefully, the films they choose and the awards they receive will help, not harm their careers.