Some weeks ago, Jennifer Lawrence was walking the gauntlet of award shows and red carpets and public appearances, culminating in many awards including an Oscar. For a lady of her young age, she’s already fast becoming an experienced veteran at handling the charade of pomp and circumstance, and her demeanor is that of someone who is simultaneously star struck and jaded. She doesn’t belittle the work of her fellow actors, but she does seem to think the work put into the awards shows is a little silly. She loves it though. She obviously is enjoying herself, but she’s not trying to pretend to be someone she’s not.
She’s apparently got a firmly rooted family life and a reality back home that keeps her grounded. She seems either fearless enough to just be herself in the face of the paparazzi and fame, or she’s too naive to realize that what you present to us at times like this is a facade. At least, that’s what most of the other actors do. You don’t show us who you really are, cuz that’s private. Or perhaps this IS her facade and she’s so good at it that we can’t tell. Well, I can’t tell.
I’m reminded of the time many years ago when I learned that Steve Martin had a facade. I thought he really was that wild and crazy guy, but he’s not. He doesn’t go around in his day to day life randomly wearing funny hats and making witty absurd sayings to whomever is in the room. That’s what he does on stage and during talk shows and when he notices “fans” or media hounds taking pictures of him. Reportedly, his personal home life is far removed from his career as a public entertainer, and he worked hard for many years to defend the invisible wall between his work and his home. In his more mature years he’s put the wild and crazy aside even in his public persona. He retains the absurdity of his public persona, but the sedate almost elegant quiet of his normal life has bled through.
Deep down he’s really a banjo player. The other stuff was just to put food on the table. He loves that banjo. He’d be playing that banjo whether people listened or not, but he would not necessarily be wearing an arrow through his head. He did that to get you to listen to his banjo.
Well. I say that. I never asked him. I could be totally wrong. This is just my observation of Steve Martin from a safe distance. I’m sure if asked, he’d deny every word of it. Of course he loves comedy and he hates that banjo. I’ve got him completely wrong.
I’m also reminded of the story of Jerry Lewis being chastised by his then wife for being his caricature of himself at home. I don’t know how much of this is true. It’s just hearsay, like so much that passes for history nowadays. As the story goes, Jerry Lewis’ then wife wanted to be with the ‘real’ Jerry Lewis and not the persona he used on screen and stage. However, sometimes he’d come home from work and he’d still be making silly noises and laughing while contorting his face into crazy shapes and walking silly. He’d launch into his act whenever he felt inspired, and she didn’t take kindly to it, even though his act was what paid for that rock on her finger.
The situation seems a little different here though. At least in his youth, Jerry Lewis liked taking the mask on and off whether on stage or home alone. His public persona was a facade but it was also a tool, which he’d used as a part of his interactions with people. It was a part of him. Mugging and being silly was like his banjo. He loved it. He perfected it to an art form. You can’t love Jerry Lewis without loving all of him. As the story or legend goes, ultimately that lady left him, and he married another. Hopefully a woman who didn’t mind Jerry Lewis making faces at the dining table, or in bed.
Jennifer Lawrence has been getting a lot of attention in recent years. I usually don’t pay much attention to the flash in the pans of Hollywood unless they entertain me or a friend mentions them or something. I would say that my personal acknowledgment that she exists is indicative of her being more than a flash in the pan, but I don’t have a great track record predicting such things.
Jennifer Lawrence is turning my head in much the same way DEVO got my attention when I was a kid, and all my friends and family told me DEVO music was just noise. Not to me. It spoke to me on levels I still don’t quite understand. Same with Oingo Boingo. Same with bands whose names may not ring a bell today with anybody but me. Each of those bands had their days in the sun and their comeback opportunities, but I found myself listening to them when they weren’t on top of the world. In private moments when no one else in my life understood whatever crap was going on in my head. I didn’t understand it. Surely Mark Mothersbaugh and Danny Elfman wouldn’t care, but the music they left behind sustained me, and felt like a warm hug on a cold night. It’s hard to explain. I would hope you know what I mean, but..
A few weeks ago Jennifer Lawrence accepted her Independent Spirit Award for Best Female Lead. I guess you’re required to thank people for these speeches, but the bulk of her speech was this message: “I love doing independent films. I love being on that twentieth hour of free overtime in the freezing cold with the rest of the crew. The only thing that’s keeping you there and motivating you is not money. It’s just a belief in a story that you love enough to do almost anything for, and passion. Every time i have that moment at three o’clock in the morning and i’m freezing, I remember. There’s that feeling. That’s why I do what I do, and I love that feeling. I mean I’d rather be warm, but you know what I mean. I’m sorry.”
Fashion nazis have pointed out that for this awards performance, most veteran actors came dressed in casual clothes, whereas Jennifer Lawrence dressed up a bit for The Spirit. Even a fashion dork like myself could tell she put effort into her appearance there. She wanted to feel snazzy while at the Independent Spirit Awards whether anyone else cared or not. It obviously mattered to her.
Later that same week she won an Oscar, but when one compares her two speeches, The Independent Spirit is the award that meant more to her, because it represents that feeling she gets. That visitation from the spirit she believes in, that keeps her going. She obviously doesn’t do this for the awards. She uses the money she makes to keep her going, but like so many of us who have once felt a spotlight brush by us, gotten saw dust in our veins and stood out in the cold in the middle of the night to help tell a story we love passionately, she’d be doing this anyway.
She’ll be there whether we’re watching her or not. That’s not necessarily the sign of someone who isn’t a flash in the pan, but it is the sign of someone who could not care less whether or not you care about her. She wants you to care about the stories she’s helping to tell. When she takes a role, she’s like Vanna White pointing at a wall. “this is interesting. pay attention to this” and then she’s decidedly not just like Vanna White cuz Vanna just turned letters around and Jennifer Lawrence does admittedly do a great deal more than that so I don’t know why I just compared her to Vanna White but you know what I mean. I’m sorry.
Standing out in the rain, being ready to take her mark when the director says go. This is her banjo. She’s pretty good at it. But then again, what do I know? I’m just a rambling guy.