By many accounts, Brie Larson “broke out” last year with her startling turn in the exquisitely made Short Term 12. Larson earned plenty of kudos for her role as the group home worker with secrets of her own (yes, that sort of “secrets of her own” thing might sound run-of-the-mill, but the film is very authentic and Larson’s work in it is achingly genuine), including a Spirit Awards nomination, but it did seem like a snub (or, perhaps more accurately, a damn shame) that she wasn’t recognized by more glitzy awards (hi, Academy Awards). Larson certainly seems poised to have an even bigger break out – the kind that comes with more high profile awards and even some household name recognition – and it looks like she just might have found the role that will push her over the edge.
Deadline reports that Larson has signed on to star in Lenny Abrahamson’s indie adaptation of Emma Donoghue’s “Room,” a 2010 bestseller that was at least partially inspired by the wrenching true-life Fitzl case, a stunning story that was uncovered in 2008. If you are so lucky to not remember the story, Josef Fritzl was arrested after his crimes – namely, imprisoning his own daughter Elisabeth for twenty-four years, abusing and raping her, and eventually fathering seven children with her – and eventually sentenced to life imprisonment after a four-day trial. It is a story that is undoubtedly chilling and about eighty different shades of heartbreaking.
Donoghue’s book centers on a five-year-old boy named Jack whose entire world consists of the eponymous Room, his mother “Ma” (the role Larson will play), and a “caretaker” of sorts named Old Nick. It is soon revealed that Jack, who provides the point of view of the novel, has spent his entire life in the room – in fact, he thinks that the Room is the whole world, and everything that he sees on television is simply made up – and that Ma is the prisoner of Old Nick, and she essentially serves as a surrogate Elisabeth Fritzl.
The book is notable for a few things – namely that it tells its story from Jack’s limited perspective and that it follows Ma and Jack through a number of major changes. The book is not concerned with just the confinement or just their (spoilers ahead!) escape or just their attempts at reintegration – it’s about all of those things. Donoghue’s book received a number of big honors, and it’s been hailed as an excellent fictionalized take on a true-life subject.
What the role of Ma in Room (which Donoghue herself adapted for the screen) will provide Larson with is something rare – a full spectrum of emotions and experiences to portray on the big screen. Although her work in Short Term 12 provided her a big range, Room will be a big step forward, and its timely and controversial subject matter, along with its awards-laden pedigree, will likely make it one to watch.
Basically, though, Larson is a wonderful actress and “Room” is a hell of novel and this is a pairing worth getting very excited about.
When I spoke to Larson last summer, we talked a lot about what drove her to pick the Short Term 12 part, and she commented: “I thought about it. There’s no way I didn’t think, wow, this is a big undertaking for me that I haven’t done before, and I really wondered if I could do it.” Room sounds like a similarly big undertaking for Larson, so it’s doubtless that she’s spent plenty of time pondering it.
Larson has a steady slate lined up pre-Room, including a starring role alongside Mark Wahlberg in The Gambler remake, the secret Judd Apatow comedy Trainwreck, the Bollywood-tinged Basmati Blues, the Jonathon Dayton- and Valerie Faris-directed The Good Luck of Right Now (based on Matthew Quick’s novel), and Christopher Storer’s long-gestating Relanxious. Although it is, admittedly, very early to speculate about Oscar possibilites of any stripe – though that doesn’t stop other prognasticators and certainly isn’t slowing us down – this new Room role sounds like the one most likely to send Larson into the “hey, here’s some damn serious work” stratosphere.
We can’t wait to see it.