- Annette Benning - The Kids Are Alright
- Natalie Portman - Black Swan
- Jennifer Lawrence - Winter's Bone
- Nicole Kidman - Rabbit Hole
- Michelle Williams - Blue Valentine
I'll be honest, I was surprised when I saw Benning had been nominated for The Kids Are Alright. She was certainly good at being cold and inconsiderate while still finding a maternal streak. I just didn't think she was stellar. I think all the actors in this film benefited from all the others doing a pretty good job. None of them were great, but none were awful. They helped each other look better, and I think that's ultimately why Benning got nominated - not because she was fantastic herself.
Portman has basically been handed the Oscar since Black Swan came out in theaters. When I saw the movie, I was really surprised and left thinking, "This is far and away the best performance we can imagine?" She definitely performed admirably, but her character felt rather flat to me despite all the obvious roundness. Still you could almost palpably feel her mind breaking from the stress of pressure to perform. She was sickeningly pure, and it was a pleasure to see her character spiral out of control. Portman did a good job, but she certainly wasn't that fantastic, and I think she benefited greatly from Aronofsky's directorial vision here. I think she'll get it, but I can't say for certain that she deserves it.
Lawrence, like much of Winter's Bone, was pretty forgettable to me. You may recall this opinion from my supporting actor post, and it still holds true. Lawrence was certainly touching, but overall this movie just fell flat for me. I'm sure I could come back to it in a couple years and find more things to enjoy in it, but I don't think Lawrence's performance is going to age as well as the movie. It's almost as though the director picked her up off the street and said, "Be yourself." And, no, I don't mean that she was so good it was like she wasn't acting at all.
Kidman did good job interacting with Aaron Ekhart to show her pain in having lost her son. She seemed rather disjointed, which I hope is what the character called for. She was struggling to come to terms with her loss while at the same time expunging it from her life. I think she translated that type of grief well. It was just hard to connect with someone acting so disconnected.
Williams did a very convincing job as a woman falling in and out of love with an abuser. She was charming and intolerable and you could feel her mind breaking down her life into all her poor decisions. She made her pain understandable and her withdrawal conscionable. Ryan Gosling performed well, pressing Williams' buttons, and through it all she displayed equally convincing resolve and collapse. I don't think Williams was fantastic, but, in a weak field, her relatable and accurate portrayal of a woman at love's end with a man making full use of the power/control wheel sends her home with the prize.