Most Known For: “Divergent,” “The Spectacular Now,” “The Descendants”
Snubbed For: “The Descendants”
One thing that Hollywood’s obsession with adapting Young Adult novels has brought us is the emergence of more and more young actresses. “Twilight” put Kristen Stewart into the mix, Jennifer Lawrence’s career leapt into the stratosphere with “The Hunger Games.” Another actress who is looking to benefit from not one, but two, major YA novels is Shailene Woodley. But Woodley is in a much more complicated situation than Stewart or Lawrence, both at the box-office and with hopes for an Oscar nomination.
Woodley got her start on TV with single episode arcs until she landed the lead role in “The Secret Life of the American Teenager.” “The Secret Life” was the first show of what would become the revamped ABC Family and Woodley was their ‘it’ girl. She would quickly parlay that with her first major film role in Alexander Payne’s “The Descendants.”
As the eldest daughter of George Clooney’s character, Woodley was superb in the film. She shines brightest in the first half, especially in the aftermath of learning that her mother is going to die, but it is a solid performance throughout, extremely well grounded for an actress who at the time was only twenty-years old. For most of the awards season it looked like she would be able to snag a nomination for her performance, but a snub by the Screen Actor’s Guild put a dent in that plan and she would suffer the same fate with the Academy.
After “The Descendants” Woodley finished out her time on “The Secret Life” before appearing in another indie that would garner her a boatload of attention, the Sundance hit “The Spectacular Now.” She and co-star Miles Teller received a special acting prize from the fest, and the film and their performances were cult favorites throughout last year, but the film never caught on in a jam-packed awards season.
Woodley is hoping that 2014 though is her true break-out year. She has already starred in the YA franchise “Divergent” and has another YA favorite, “The Fault in Our Stars” ready to make audiences cry this Friday. But even with the recent activity of late, the jury is still out on what kind of career Shailene Woodley has in front of her.
Forced to compare her to the other two leading ladies of the biggest YA franchises to date, Woodley has not benefited nearly as much as either Stewart or Lawrence from her venture into the genre. Stewart, though the film’s weren’t critical hits, has found a mass of supporters and set box-office records with every new film it seemed. Lawrence, meanwhile, headlines what has turned into the biggest franchises in Hollywood that doesn’t feature a man wearing a cape while still managing to give interesting performances that have landed her three Oscar nominations and one win.
Critics reacted to “Divergent” in a similar way as they did to “Twilight,” but the former wasn’t able to match the same kind of box-office success. Safe to say that Woodley hasn’t received near the same kind of bump from the genre as her contemporaries. In addition, she lost another major franchise after her scenes as Mary Jane in “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” were cut and it now is likely that the role will be recast. Woodley is struggling to find that major hit to bring her to the A-List.
Maybe “The Fault in Our Stars” does that. It is a popular book and could see her give a very emotional performance that deeply affects people. To call it Oscar material is probably a stretch, but adding another strong performance to her resume never hurts. She also continues her indie work as she was in another Sundance film this year, “White Bird in a Blizzard.”
The sample size is still small on Woodley, but other than “Divergent” Woodley has given consistently good performances. But the question is will she be able to follow a similar path like Lawrence and master both studio and indie fare, or will she hover just below the radar with audiences and the Academy like Parker Posey or Jennifer Jason Leigh? The good news for all parties, there’s still plenty of time to figure it out, because Shailene Woodley isn’t going anywhere for a while.