1. The Bill Engvall Show (2007-09)
The Bill Engvall Show was Jennifer Lawrence’s first big break in Hollywood, a program whose tone and audience is markedly different than what became of her later career. Watching clips of Lawrence on the show — in which she played Engvall’s daughter, Lauren Pearson — is like peering into another universe. However, what’s fascinating is seeing her already deft timing blend with the broad comedy dictates of network family sitcoms. The writing isn’t always there, but Lawrence sells it.
2. The Poker House (2008)
The Poker House was a big test for Lawrence. An independent drama directed by Lori Petty (of Tank Girl), Jennifer Lawrence anchors the film in a challenging dramatic role, playing a girl charged with taking care of her family while her unstable mother tries to support them through sex work. Selma Blair overacts the roof off as Lawrence’s mother, but Lawrence wisely plays her character with a burning intensity that denotes an uncommon intelligence in a young actress. Lawrence also shares the screen with a very young Chloe Moretz, who plays her younger sister.
3. My Super Sweet 16 (2007)
In less noteworthy roles, Jennifer Lawrence famously appeared in a clip for My Super Sweet 16, the MTV show about spoiled little rich kids getting older and making themselves look like idiots while they are at it. For the commercial, Lawrence spoofs the show’s rich stars, and the result lives on the internet forever. It’s truly super sweet.
4. Cold Case (2007)
As Lawrence made her way into the movies, she continued to hang around on television — in other places than MTV, of course. On a 2007 episode of Cold Case, Jennifer Lawrence played a down-on-her-luck teenager whose mother dies after her father gets cancer. Lawrence has a way of forever seeming smarter than all the other actors around her, and watching her character make sense of the situation while Kathryn Morris and Tracie Thoms interrogate her is a joy. Jennifer Lawrence is great on her own, but she’s even better when she gets someone to bounce off.
5. Medium (2007)
If you had a hankering to see Jennifer Lawrence covered in blood, check out her appearance on Medium — because hey, some people are into that. Lawrence plays a victim, bringing both ethereal gravity and a delicious sauciness to her role. A former cheerleader, Lawrence knows how to play the sassy teenager bit, but what impresses are the split-screen scenes where she has to confront her mother’s abusive boyfriend. It’s a little Lifetime channel and a little Brian de Palma, but with Lawrence in the scene, the result is fully compelling.
6. Monk (2007)
However, you can’t have everything, especially when you’re starting out in Hollywood, and Lawrence’s appearance on Monk proves that. Lawrence gets all of two lines in the clip for about ten seconds of screentime. If you can’t spot her right away, that’s because she’s the one in the mascot costume, jumping all over Tony Shaloub. She learned early that sometimes you have to do terrible things for money. If you’re Jessica Alba, that’s your entire career. But this is a nice little giggle, before Lawrence moved onto bigger things.
7. Garden Party (2008)
This clip, however, is not one of those things. “Little-seen indie drama” often spells “criminally underrated,” but other times it means: “Wow, that sucked.” Starring Two Lovers’ Vinessa Shaw and Willa Holland, Garden Party is one of those young-people-making-bad-decisions-while-finding-themselves movies, and it’s best forgotten. However, the image of Jennifer Lawrence’s bad perm will last an eternity. Just remember, guys: It got better.