Rising indie distributor A24 harbored high awards hopes for Lenny Abrahamson’s intense prison escape drama “Room,” so they took the film to world premiere at Telluride, where it popped with audiences and critics, and then to Toronto — both of which Larson thanked in her winsome Oscar acceptance speech for giving the movie “a platform.” It’s holding its own at the box office, with $23 million worldwide in the till so far. The film’s rising star, Brie Larson, also landed Golden Globe, Screen Actors Guild, and Indie Spirit wins on the way to the Oscar.
Finally, with “Room,” Larson, who was so fine as a conflicted social worker in “Short Term 12,” after supporting roles in “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World,” “The United States of Tara,” “The Spectacular Now,” “21 Jump Street,” and “Don Jon,” gets a role worthy of her abilities (unlike follow-ups “The Gambler” and “Train Wreck”). She’s a kidnap victim who has given birth while imprisoned in a single room for seven years, and struggles to raise her child (Jacob Tremblay), who is now five, without damaging him by revealing how depressed and sad she is. Finally, she realizes on his fifth birthday that he’s old enough to help them to escape.
But once they get out, what will become of them? This movie plays like an intense thriller, where the outcome (especially if you have not read the book, which Emma Donoghue adapted herself), is far from certain. In movies today, unpredictability is a prize commodity.
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Larson, 25, has been paying her dues since she was a child actress, changing like a chameleon for each role. In our TIFF interview, she talks about the changes wrought by her breakout in “Short Term 12,” and how she feels now that she’s in-demand.
Certainly, she proves that she can carry a challenging role like “Room,” in which she subsumes herself as Ma, who lives for and through her child. Larson tuned into young Tremblay to help him stay focused and alert. “7 to 8 year old boys are pretty fidgety, they get distracted,” said Abrahamson at Toronto. “Brie became my collaborator in making the film; she was able to hold herself, reach an emotionally intense spot in scene, and get him to look at her…To be able to be generous enough to bring the boy to the point he needed to be at, that takes a special actor.”
Now casting directors — and moviegoers — know who Larson is.
Still to come is Larson’s long-in-the-works Bollywood musical “Basmati Blues,” as well as movies with Todd Solondz (“Wiener-Dog”) and Ben Wheatley (“Free Fire”), a chance to play Billie Jean King in tennis duel “Battle of the Sexes” and a big-budget popcorn movie, “Kong: Skull Island.”