Jennifer Lawrence
Matthias Vriens-McGrath/Trunk Archive

As Academy Award-nominated actress Jennifer Lawrence navigates her career from blockbuster heroine to dramatic leading lady (starring alongside some of Hollywood’s most elite), the duality of her personality is apparent. While both spontaneous and lighthearted, she’s serious and intent about her craft. And critics agree, she’s ready for the spotlight.

On a crisp, early-September afternoon, fresh-faced Jennifer Lawrence is embracing the glamorous side of the Toronto International Film Festival. Premiering Silver Linings Playbook, the David O. Russell comedic drama costarring Bradley Cooper and Robert De Niro, she confidently endures the publicity spotlight draped in an ombre Dior Couture gown. Her sleek, unadorned tresses highlight the fact that she’s returned to a brunette version of herself.

It’s a sophisticated look, but still edgy and age-appropriate. It’s a moment that will be applauded by fashion bloggers and noted as a defining point for the young 22-year-old actress — not only for her style, but also in her career. Silver Linings will go on to win the top prize at TIFF, sparking a swarm of Oscar buzz for the star that won’t die down anytime soon.

Silver Linings Playbook is a different turn for the actress, and that is on purpose. As she looks to vary her roles, Lawrence is intent on creating a career broad in scope and varied in significance. She told W magazine in September that she got nervous even taking on the role of Katniss, the popular heroine of the fan-devoted Hunger Games franchise, because she was afraid that it would overwhelm any other character she tried to deliver. But the Silver Linings script was a no-brainer. She says director/writer Russell’s script was one of the best she’s ever read. “He’s one of my favorite directors and this is a hilariously dark, heartbreaking, and heartwarming story about this man (Bradley Cooper) who gets out of a mental institution. His wife has a restraining order against him, but he’s obsessed with getting her back. Then he meets me.”

Most of America met Lawrence this year when she graced the screen in the first installment of the Hunger Games empire. But she’s been a critic darling since her Oscar-nominated turn as Ree Dolly, an Ozarks Mountain-poor 17-year-old who’s desperately trying to keep her family intact as she searches for her bail-jumping dad, in the 2010 indie gem Winter’s Bone. The raw eternal fight for existence drives both Katniss and Ree, and it’s what drew Lawrence to these career-defining performances. “These maternal wilderness girls resonate with me,” she says when we catch up with her in her Los Angeles home. “I’ve always had that natural empathy to look after younger people. But I also hope that comes with most humans. Those are just the stories that grab me when I’m reading a script, the stories that I love: someone who’s brave enough to fight for their family and has a world that’s far too big for them bearing down on their shoulders. That’s what’s different about Katniss. She’s focused on survival, on saving her family. She’s focused on a revolution.”