The Poker House (2008) is an autobiographical film based on the teenage life experiences of actress Lori Petty (A League of Their Own, Tank Girl). Petty also wrote the screenplay and directed the film. I have repeatedly asked so called Jennifer Lawrence fans if they remember this film, yet none of them were familiar with The Poker House. How can you claim to be a fan, and miss out on her best performance?!
Lawrence plays Agnes (or technically Lori Petty), a tough as nails, small town girl, growing up against the backdrop of the poverty stricken town of Council Bluffs, Iowa in the 1970’s. I won't give away the plot, but to give you some idea, here is a powerful clip that features an exchange between Jennifer Lawrence and Selma Blair, who plays her Mother in the film:
I believe Jennifer Lawrence is at home on the indie film circuit. While, super A-list stardom may have gotten in the way of that, (because if you are an A-lister, independent directors and producers may think you are “out of their league”). That's a shame because she is really is a force to be reckoned with on the indie screen. In addition to her past roles are more 'age appropriate,' which I believe helps her mold her characters with a bit more ease. Despite the fact she has won an Oscar for her performance in Silver Linings Playbook, I think her performance in The Poker House is her BEST to date. With Winter's Bone (2010) in close second.
It's obvious Lawrence misses the gritty world of truly independent cinema as she is ready to produce her own indie film. That film will be a book to screen adaptation of the 2005 novel The Glass Castle. Short Term 12 director Destin Daniel Cretton is set to direct. Whether Lawrence is to star is questionable, but either way this is exiting news for me. I can’t wait to see her back in her element.
With all of that said, why does The Poker House continually get the snub from 'fans' and media alike? At the time, Jennifer Lawrence was not a house hold name, and her on screen performance is important for fans to acknowledge. Even the Indie Wire article: Jennifer Lawrence: 5 Killer Roles of a Rare A-List Indie Queen, left this performance completely off their list! (See link to article below). Is it the subject matter of the film? Is it the “lack of star-power,” marketing, budget, I mean what is it? I understand Lori Petty did not do the best job at directing, however, that does not discount this film’s relevance. This film is about shows that poverty, and child abuse are COLORBLIND, no one is immune. It also shows that despite the poorest of situations, you can still make the best of things, and learn to strive and persevere against all odds. This is not an easy film to swallow, but Jennifer Lawrence's performance alone is worth the watch. 3 1/2 out of 5 stars.
Watch Lori Petty, and Jennifer Lawrence discuss The Poker House:
Read the Indie Wire article, Jennifer Lawrence: 5 Killer Roles of a Rare A-List Indie Queen here