I gotta be honest with ya. This ain’t exactly the best crop of Best Actress nominees I’ve ever seen. In fact, if I were really honest, in just about any other year only 2 of them would get nominated. It just wasn’t a deep year for actresses. But somebody’s going to win.
Cate Blanchett, Carol
The best of the “meh” performances, Cate Blanchett is just so supremely talented that even her blasé work shines in a dimly lit room. There isn’t much compelling about her role as the titular 1950s middle-aged divorcée looking to spark some romance with a young shopgirl but she gives some distinction to a complex range of emotions.
Brie Larson, Room
Brie Larson on the other hand. Fantastic. There is so much naturalism and genuineness to her performance sometimes I felt like director Lenny Abrahamson just let the camera roll while Larson and her co-stars (especially Jacob Tremblay) interacted. My wife made an astute observation about her performance over the weekend. Her character, Joy Newsome (“Ma”) never had the chance to graduate high school. It’s as if her life in some ways was just halted at age 17 and then she had to figure out a way to be a mother and shield her son from the horrors of their situation. It’s all there in a many-layered performance.
Jennifer Lawrence, Joy
As much as I love Jennifer Lawrence there is nothing special about her role as Joy Mangano. I think she suffers from a very uneven script which starts off in chaos, moves to very interesting and then drops off the cliff into the ocean of “Who Cares?” The most troubling part is the end where Lawrence plays a 45-year old Mangano. I know this isn’t true, but it felt like Jennifer Lawrence had never met a 45-year old woman before. It’s just odd.
Charlotte Rampling, 45 Years
Oh, and speaking of odd. This film has some interesting elements to it but Rampling’s nomination is puzzling. There is so little to her performance (and not necessarily in a good way) that I wonder how she even ended up on the Academy’s radar. It isn’t her household name recognition. It isn’t the high-profile blockbuster movie she was in. It’s not the kind of role that usually gets a lot of buzz. I don’t get the nomination and I don’t get the nomination. If you know what I mean. Maybe the Academy members are all closet Zardoz fans.
Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn
This nomination makes much more sense. A LOT of sense. Ronan gives a carefully crafted performance as Eilis Lacey, a young Irish immigrant coming to 1950s Brooklyn. Her transformation from naïve, wide-eyed and shy to confident, passionate and strong is so artfully done. This is a wonderful film and she gives a wonderful performance.
PREDICTION: There’s no question it comes down to Saoirse Ronan and Brie Larson. I think Room just has all the attention going for it and Brie Larson is on a roll.