Why Critically-Beloved Beauty Shailene has a better career than 2-time Oscar loser, JLaw

1. Shailene isn’t overexposed.

She’s done some big movies, and has three coming out in 2014 alone, but she also isn’t afraid to take big breaks in between films. As she told Teen Vogue:

“After The Descendants, everybody was like, ‘You’ve got to ride the wave!’ And I was like, ‘You ride the wave and it eventually crashes on the shore. That doesn’t work out! I’m going to just sit here and paddleboard’. I didn’t do a movie for two years because I didn’t read anything that was inspiring to me.”

The projects that Jennifer Lawrence has done since she first caught the world’s attention have been inspiring as well, but she’s also involved in two huge franchises simultaneously (Hunger Games and X Men), and to use Shailene’s own analogy, it’s only a matter of time before a wave that big crashes on the shore.

2. Shailene plays age-appropriate roles.

The role that Jen ended up playing in Silver Linings Playbook is meant for an older woman, with producers considering actresses like Angelina Jolie and Elizabeth Banks, both in their late thirties at the time. But it went to Jen, who at twenty-one, was sixteen years younger than her costar Bradley Cooper. Then in American Hustle, she played the unhappily-married wife of Christian Bale, seventeen years her senior.

And now David O. Russell wants to cast her yet again as Joy Mangano, a single mother of three who creates the Miracle Mop. When could a young woman in her twenties have had time to do all those things? Why are we stretching her to fit into roles that might be best-suited for actors of different ages?

Conversely, Shailene plays roles right around her age or a little younger, making her characters much less distracting to watch because you aren’t doing fast math in your head.

3. She plays opposite different actors.

Jennifer has her third movie opposite Bradley Cooper coming out this year, which is a great way to box yourself into one category. But Shailene has a variety of costars and is different in every role, to keep viewers’ minds open to future projects.

4. She’s honed her craft.

Jennifer notoriously likes to perform without much rehearsal, but Shailene spent five years on the set of the same television show, Secret Life Of The American Teenager. Not everyone liked it, but it was an excellent way to build her skills and really get to know one character, from 2008 to 2013. J-Law had ten movies come out in that time.

5. She has nothing to prove.

In addition to her more mainstream nominations where she overlaps with Jennifer, Shailene has collected eclectic awards and nominations on the indie circuit from the Independent Spirit Awards, to the Dramatic Special Jury Award for Acting at Sundance, to the Trophee Chopard at Cannes. Basically, she’s working up to that Oscar nomination, and when she gets it, it will be a victory.

Whereas Jennifer’s in a situation now where to maintain the same level of buzz about her work, she’ll have to keep getting nominated for an Oscar every year just to break even. Jennifer has a three year precedent of receiving essentially back-to-back nominations (in 2011, 2013, and 2014), so there’s a lot of pressure for her to sustain that impossibly high standard, and any step down from there will be seen not as the absence of a victory, but as a failure.