Five roles that led Brie Larson to ‘Captain Marvel’

The Oscar-winning actress has been playing key supporting roles in studio comedies while starring in some of the best independent films of the decade.

This article contains spoilers.

Over the weekend, “Captain Marvel” became the first female-led addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe and revitalized the box office with a $153 million debut. The superhero flick announces Brie Larson as a major-movie star in the traditional sense, though she has been an indie darling and critical favorite since her beginnings in the industry. Now is the perfect opportunity to brush up on the career highlights of an actress who has yet to play a lead in such commercial fare, unlike other leading ladies of her generation such as Jennifer Lawrence, Emma Stone and Shailene Woodley.

  1. “21 Jump Street” (2012)

Perhaps the movie that put her on the map was the “21 Jump Street” reboot. After landing a small part in “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World,” this box office hit brought her some visibility in the role of Molly opposite Jonah Hill. There isn’t much to her role as the love interest, but she still made an impression as the sympathetic girl who bonds with Hill’s loner of a character.

  1. “The Spectacular Now” (2013)

Adding layers to her previous role, the actress played a teenager again in James Ponsoldt’s independent drama. Cassidy is a high school senior who struggles to reconcile the erratic behavior of her boyfriend (Miles Teller) as graduation and adulthood loomed around the corner. The film is a tender look at arrested development that gave Larson a chance to show a more honest version of the teenage girl on screen.

  1. “Trainwreck” (2015)

An inspired casting decision in a movie full of them is Larson playing the straight woman to Amy Schumer’s loose cannon in this epic romantic comedy. Directed by Judd Apatow, “Trainwreck” features a slew of talent from all areas including Tilda Swinton, LeBron James and Bill Hader. There wasn’t a shred of uncertainty that this movie would be funny, but it achieves an emotional depth that so many comedies fail at because of its familial elements. Larson is so giving in her performance as sister Kim that it rubs off on Schumer, who has yet to match the acting abilities she showcased here with her exceptional co-star.

  1. “Short Term 12” (2013)

The role that introduced many to Brie Larson is that of Grace, a 20-something supervisor at a residential facility for at-risk youth with troubles of her own. This interior portrait of pain and mental instability is entirely dependent on Larson as she tries with all of her will to help in the lives of others despite her own domestic turmoil. Her shattering portrayal is a feat in humanistic storytelling that elevates the breakouts of her co-stars LaKeith Stanfield and Kaitlyn Dever. She got little recognition at the time, but later re-teamed with director Destin Daniel Cretton for the widely-released yet emotionally-muted “The Glass Castle.”

  1. “Room” (2015)

The biggest jewel in Brie Larson’s crown is her Oscar-winning turn as “Ma” in Lenny Abrahamson’s “Room.” Playing a woman who birthed a child in captivity, she plans an escape after seven years for her and her young son (Jacob Tremblay), who knows only of the world within the room’s four walls. A walloping, cathartic tale of life and love’s endless possibilities, Larson delivered a performance that perfectly articulates the bond between mother and child. Not calling your mom immediately after viewing this movie is impossible.

Larson can next be seen in “Avengers: Endgame” on April 26. Next year, she will reunite with Cretton for “Just Mercy,” a film co-starring Michael B. Jordan that chronicles the life of civil rights defense attorney Bryan Stevenson. She will also star in an upcoming Charlie Kaufman film for Netflix and a C.I.A. series for Apple’s future streaming service.

Edited by Joe Cross | jcross@themaneater.com

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