Although she has been acting since the age of 8, Brie Larson only started to become a thing in 2009, as the daughter of Toni Collettes dissociative-identity housewife on the Showtime series United States of Tara. For all three seasons, the 20-something Larson stood out by playing sassy, brassy and smug.
She was so good at it, she then applied the same smart-snob approach to a slew of independent films, to the point of being tiresome. (Last year, when she wasnt asked to do anything as 21 Jump Streets love interest but bat her eyelashes, I felt a surge of temporary relief.)
I doubt Short Term 12 marks the end of Larsons seen-it-all turns, but it proves she can do something other than That. Shes quite good at That, but This is something else the performance her admirers always knew was there on the sidelines, just waiting for the proper outlet.
The buzz on her work as Grace, a foster-care facility worker whos not entirely free of damage herself, is that its worthy of Academy Award consideration for Best Actress. I agree. I dont think it will happen the film is too tiny but Id love to see it happen. Shes far and away the finest element of the downbeat drama, which screens Friday through Sunday at Oklahoma City Museum of Art.
Alongside her scraggly boyfriend, Mason (John Gallagher Jr., as annoying here as he is on TVs The Newsroom), Grace works at a group home for troubled kids. Despite her youth, or perhaps because of it, shes able to fill the role as the one person in life who hasnt given up on them.
As Short Term 12 progresses, however, we learn Grace is just as vulnerable as they are. The only difference is that shes getting paid (barely) for it.
Larson is as marvelous in the part as her characters name is on-thenose. She bares her soul and erases her vanity, letting writer/director Destin Crettons intimate camera take in her stringy hair, facial blemishes and all. Adapting the film from his own 2008 short film, Cretton applies an equally unkempt, no-frills touch; his camera is always moving, but at least it doesnt shake so much as bob.
Because Short Term 12 is based on Crettons own life experiences, his movie is expectedly raw often too raw for its own good and depressing but not entirely artless and ultimately touching. Viewers will benefit from soaking in its despair, if only to realize how good they have it in comparison, but none will benefit greater than its lead. Larsons assured, beyond-her-years performance would be a revelation if I didnt already believe it was within her.
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