Monday, February 22, 2016

Supporting Actress

Two in one day? Get used to it! We're on the film train with less than six days until the Oscars air.

Actress in a Supporting Role:

  • Jennifer Jason Leigh in The Hateful Eight
  • Roony Mara in Carol
  • Rachel McAdams in Spotlight
  • Alicia Vikander in The Danish Girl
  • Kate Winslet in Steve Jobs

Jennifer Jason Leigh is the lynchpin of The Hateful Eight just as much as her character Daisy Domergue. Her comedic timing is as flawless as the depth she brings to Daisy. She is sharp and cunning, and for as wild as she is, you can tell there is always something else going on behind her eyes. Daisy initially comes off as a bit queer but ultimately shallow, but over the course of The Hateful Eight, Leigh develops her into an incredibly rich character whom you're never sure if you should be laughing at, laughing with, or fearing. She brings a mix of cunning misanthropy and maniacal wit reminiscent of Charles Mason, and The Hateful Eight owes its soul to her.

Thank everything that is good that Roony Mara is no longer being shoehorned as Lisbeth Salander. Finally, she gets a major role which seems more or less designed for her. Over the course of the film she grows Therese from a mousey young woman confident in her choices if not herself to a confident woman resolute in her choices. Her gift in telegraphing subtext is tantamount to her character. In a scene where she is spending Christmas with Carol, she shrinks at first blush and her voice lilts with infatuation before she pulls back within herself. When Carol places her hands on Therese's shoulders, she has a look of quiet excitement mixed with that unsureity of knowing if her crush is just being kind or is actually flirting. Carol takes her hands away and Terese takes a quick, darting glance hoping she's staying close, and then, Therese takes her gaze back to the piano instantly fearful her glimpse might be caught. This quiet acting of Mara's brings a young, hopeful beauty to Carol for which it is incredibly indebted.

I, uh, don't remember a single thing about Rachel McAdams in Spotlight

Excellent in The Royal Affair, Alicia Vikander turns in a truly robust performance in The Danish Girl. She matched every beat and played off Eddie Redmayne's simperingly bland acting to not only build her own character, but to give his a modicum of authenticity. Her Gerda wears all of her emotions on her face, constantly forcing the audience to believe her. Where Mara was mostly subtext, Vikander plays her character in the opposite but without the kitsch of overacting. The Danish Girl has few bright spots, and aside from the costuming, Vikander is nearly all of them.

Kate Winslett, too, was the best parts of her film Steve Jobs as she delivered a nuanced performance with body language neither too soft nor too harsh. Her performance in the last third, however, is where Winslett and her character ramped up. Instead of the composed character we had been given, we're presented with a theatrical and reactionary performance, battered against the rocks of Jobs' personality. It's a shame, then, that when she finally prevails, the calm moral compass that she lends Jobs feels painfully contrived. Winslett performed admirably for an hour and twenty minutes, but in the final forty, things fell apart. Was her character not given enough gravitas in the end? Did the costume designer not give her big enough shoulder pads? Did Winslet just flatten out? I'm not sure, but it's good to see Winslett delivering solidly, even if, in the end, it doesn't quite add up.

I may have glowed less excessively over Winslet, but, to me, it's either her or Roony Mara. They provided my absolute two favorite performances here, and ultimately, I'm going to fall in Winslett's camp. Vikander was amazing as well, and I think her performance will play better with the Academy than Mara's. When all's accounted for, though, I suspect the familiarity with Winslet will sink Vikander's chances.

Should win: Kate Winslet in Steve Jobs
Will Win: Kate Winslet in Steve Jobs

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