If nothing else, 23-year-old Brie Larson exemplifies a trend within her generation of rising stars, who weave in and out of each other’s projects like they’re breathlessly party-hopping. In The Spectacular Now, Larson plays Cassidy, the ex-girlfriend of a reluctant hero played by 26-year-old Miles Teller, who’ll soon star in Divergent with 21-year-old Shailene Woodley, who’s also in The Spectacular Now, and is shooting The Fault in Our Stars (written by—what?—the guys who wrote The Spectacular Now). The new teen romance also features 28-year-old Mary Elizabeth Winstead, who played opposite Larson in Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, and 16-year-old Kaitlyn Dever, who’ll soon be seen with Larson in the forthcoming Short Term 12. Additionally, Short Term 12 features 29-year-old John Gallagher Jr., who stars on The Newsroom with 27-year-old Allison Pill, who’s also a Scott Pilgrim vs. The World alum. It’s all enough to spin the head of six-degrees king Kevin Bacon, who, come to think of it, just saw his signature movie, Footloose, remade with—wait for it—Miles Teller.
But back to Larson. What makes this blond Sacramento native stand out? In all honesty, that’s something we viewers are only still discovering. What’s immediately clear is the actress isn’t bound at all by genre. Her first real gig was doing comedy sketches on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, and she followed that with sporadic jobs on various network sitcoms, from Raising Dad to Hope & Faith, all of which either never went to series, tanked shortly after debuting, or cut her character altogether. (She has done well with guest spots and recurring roles on TV shows like Community and The United States of Tara.) On the big screen, Larson has starred in comedies like Greenberg, Scott Pilgrim, and 21 Jump Street, no doubt skyrocketing her profile by making her comely—and refreshingly not cadaverously thin—face known to the masses. But it’s in her shift to indie drama that Larson has found some serious long-term career foundation. Proving just as dramatically persuasive as she is comedically inclined, Larson is netting a lot of good ink for Short Term 12 in particular, a film she helped steer toward two top prizes at this year’s SXSW Film Festival. Larson’s isn’t the strongest turn in the movie, but it is the sort that’s all but destined to wind up in the Best Actress lineup at the Indie Spirits.
Having also recently appeared in The Trouble with Bliss, Larson is keeping her momentum going with The Spectacular Now and Don Jon, the much-buzzed-about directorial debut of Joseph Gordon-Levitt, which is set for release in September, and will see her balance the funny and the poignant, two tones she’s deftly been toggling between. One thing that may set Larson apart is her formidable musical ability, which goes well beyond a Jennifer-Love-Hewitt-style lark, in which an actress simply gives singing a stab. A singer, songwriter, and musician, Larson genuinely has the pipes and the chops, and in 2005, she released an album, Finally Out of P.E., through Casablanca Records. For what it was (a Taylor Swift-y ode to all things teen-focused), the album was well-received, getting play on Radio Disney and putting Larson on tour with Jesse McCartney. If you ask us, though, Larson’s best musical moment is the performance of “Black Sheep,” a little tune she taunts an audience with in Scott Pilgrim (see below). It didn’t thrust her career forward, and none of her incestuous peers are featured on stage, but admit it: This scene marks the first time Brie Larson held you rapt.