Nearly all the best scenes in Alexander Payne’s The Descendants feature Shailene Woodley, who was unforgettable as Alexandra, the eldest daughter of George Clooney’s cuckolded, soon-to-be-widower, Matt King. Offhand, one thinks of the scene in which news of her mom’s comatose state sends Alex into the family’s pool, screaming underwater in one of the film’s many snapshots of private torment. There’s also the moment that Alex spills to her dad the secret of her mother’s affair, shifting from tearful to venomous without missing a beat, wiping her cheeks before saying, “He hand his hand on her ass. It was gross.”
Woodley hasn’t done much screen work since her Descendants breakthrough, short of continuing her starring role in The Secret Life of the American Teenager, the ABC Family series that will soon wrap its fifth and final season. But, as 2013 rolls on, the 21-year-old has suddenly gone from Oscar snubbee to ubiquitous princess, reportedly landing the lead in two major YA adaptations, clinching the role of Mary Jane Watson in The Amazing Spider-Man 2, and still being sure to maintain some indie cred. Of all the young actresses to recently emerge from Disney-type talent factories, from Miley Cyrus to the Spring Breakers hell-raisers, Woodley seems the most on track toward a fruitful and prestigious career, perhaps akin to that of another indie/franchise straddler, Jennifer Lawrence.