I suspect part of my somewhat ambivalent relationship with 2013 films could be traced back to this category. I’m usually way more excited about the supporting ladies. But what a terrible opening to a post meant to celebrate good work. My vague wish that I had a wider basin of performances which I loved does not negate the good work of the ladies below, each woman singled out is doing fine work. Especially since, so many of them were great performances receiving less than their deserved share of accolades.
Amy Adams in Her as Amy
I kept wondering if the fact that Amy’s story was the most intriguing thing I took away from Her was a flaw in the film. But then, I decide, when Adams is doing such excellent work maybe it’s just a sign of fine acting. In a film that sometimes gives way to concepts Amy is so vivid, real and harsh around the edges in her persona the film’s departures to her don’t feel like digressions but essential diversions into someone we know and care for.
HIGHLIGHT: She is ace on facial reactions throughout but when she gets the focus to explain how her divorce happened she nails the scene with specificity and true emotion. She has a gift for getting to the root of sadness that is not maudlin which on full display here.
Sally Hawkins in Blue Jasmine as Ginger
Hawkins understands that Ginger has spent a life in the shadow of her sister and nails the way that effects all of her scenes even those without Jasmine. Even when she argues with Jasmine the tentative undertone of deference rings through. The way the attention Al gives her makes her open up is no incidental thing, or the way she is palpably at ease with Chili until Jasmine enters the scene is not by chance.
HIGHLIGHT: Difficult to narrow down, although what tremendous work essentially acting with herself in that phone call to Al. In that moment it as if Ginger physically deflates and we can almost see her deciding, "No, there is no life outside of this one I'm in for me"
Scarlett Johansson in Don Jon as Barbara
Barbara Sugarman is, on paper, a shrill cardboard cut-out of a woman. In some ways, this is deliberate. Is Scarlett working against the film, then, when she embraces the shrill potential for sameness and turns Barbara into someone so layered, intriguing and probably deliberately misleading? I’m not sure, but the turn is so vibrant it leaves the film lagging when she leaves.
HIGHLIGHT: I’m enamoured with the scene where Barbara finds out Don’s lies because Johansson plays her anger in a way we’re constantly uncertain how much of this is Barbara sincere reaction and how much is a savvy girl trying to manipulate her guy in the oddest of ways.
Julianne Nicholson in August: Osage County as Ivy
HIGHLIGHT: She manages to pull the focus from the additive “Eat the fish, bitch!” refrain reacting in horror, betrayal, shock to the Charles reveal and nails the teary goodbye to Barbara. When she whispers then screams, “You're monsters!” to her mother and sister she has effectively removed us from the dark comedy of the moment to a sudden realisation of the tragic lot all the characters are rooted with. And all that with a single line reading.
Lea Seydoux in Blue is the Warmest Colour as Emma
How difficult to play an object of affection? You wouldn’t know it by watching Seydoux who manages to justify Adele’s immediate attraction and infatuation explicating the vivid impression this character must give. Shedoes so while avoiding making Emma into a theory but grounding her in fallibleness, irascibility and slight conceit.
HIGHLIGHT: The breakup scene may seem like an obvious choice but Emma has such a gift for hurting that she seems to almost relish the harder of her character which precipitates the anger in the scene.
RUNNER-UP: Adepero Oduye in 12 Years a Slave doesn’t quite make the top 5 but I prefer her to the finalists below, so wanted to give her some specific attention here. She and Lea are battling for #6, and she only misses the list of nominees because her film isn't very invested in her. I have many (conflicting, weird, stroppy) thoughts about the way Oduye, and her performance, has been weirdly shifted to the back of the line re the film. Nonetheless, she offers my favourite performance of the film with only three swift scenes. She's so in touch with Eliza as a person and as a tool to challenge the audience, and Solomon, about the “right” way to respond to this plight and manages to inject a decisive of wave of hopelessness in the film early which is never really washed away. The way her voice cracks on, I cannot accuse, I have done dishonourable things to survive and for all that I've still ended up here speaks volumes.
FINALISTS: All of whom have the skill of turning characters with little backstory into moving creations Cameron Diaz in The Counselor for turning an opaque woman into something searing even if she still, deliberately probably, remains impenetrable; Juliette Lewis in August Osage County is playing a character who is very illusory but manages to attack the root of Karen’s talkative vacuous ways with impressive aplomb. They way she is so obviously trying to impressive her mother is palpable; Carey Mulligan in Inside Llewyn Davis, like all the supporting performers, is stuck playing variations on a single theme but manages to make Jean evocative nonetheless especially in that final scene with Llewyn; Lupita Nyong’o in 12 Years a Slave avoids the film’s inclination to disregard Patsy in some key ways by ensuring that when she does appear she’s a woman with far-reaching feelings and not just a prop; not unlike Margot Robbie in The Wolf of Wall Street who doesn’t have much time to command the screen but needs to d enough to make us sure that there is a life outside of Jordan, and she nails it.
HONOURABLE MENTIONS: Helena Bonham Carter in Great Expectations; Kaitlyn Dever in Short Term 12; Elizabeth Dibecki in The Great Gatsby; Yaya D’Costa in Mother of George; Glenne Headly in Don Jon; Brie Larson in The Spectacular Now; Emma Thompson in Beautiful Creatures