The Supporting Actress category appears to be locked. It’s Anne Hathaway‘s to lose. Part of it is who she is right now in the industry, who she is to the Academy itself, but the other part of it is her work in Les Miserables. For some reason Hathaway has become the object of scorn – maybe because she’s “too smart” at the mic, taking out time from her speech to celebrate veteran Sally Field, being a little too verbose, perhaps, saying a little too much. But to me, those are the dumbest reasons imaginable for a person not to win an award. It’s as if the whole world has turned into high school bullies and we’re all acting like it’s okay. It’s most definitely not okay, not in any way. Either she gave the best performance of her career or she didn’t. It should only come down to that.
So the critics had fun poking at her performance and the way Tom Hooper shot her performance – all in close-up. And it’s probably a big deal that he mom played the part, and Hathaway lost weight to play the part and even shorn her lovely locks so that now she must do awards season without them. But to me, there is no denying what Hathaway’s performance does to you when you’re sitting right there in front of her. To me, Hooper’s vision of what he wanted to do with Les Mis is wrapped up entirely in Hathaway’s performance. It’s melodramatic, brutal, tears-inducing. But it is also one of the only performances in the film that knows it’s in a film. That means, Hathaway translated her performance outward, which none of the others — save perhaps Hugh Jackman — do.
Anne Hathaway for the win, but if she has any challenger it’s Sally Field. I’ve always been a peripheral fan of Field’s, having grown up watching her in films but I never really got her skill as an actress until her performance as Mary Lincoln. Even though Fanboy Nation doesn’t take kindly when their hotties are swapped out for “older women,” Spielberg did the right thing in casting her. Why, because with age, wisdom and experience comes thoughtfulness, skill and insight; you would have to have lived a good long while to get the many shades of Mary Lincoln – her bi-polarity before there was treatment for it, her infamous rages that sent the president walking the streets, her miles-long grief at the death of her children, and her constant fear that something would happen to her beloved husband all radiate beneath Field’s many layers. Every tiny detail put in Doris Kearns Goodwin’s book about Lincoln is in Field’s performance. Mary Lincoln was a smart woman stuck in a time when women couldn’t go anywhere without their husbands. Much of her madness was likely centered around her stifling lack of rights. If Lincoln is about anything significant it’s about equality in America. The theme pulsates throughout, not just of slaves but of women back then, LGBT men and women, and immigrants today. We see Mary’s grief and frustration through Field’s full spectrum performance.
Amy Adams in The Master – of all of the young actresses working today Adams has range and versatility. She can really do it all, from perky leads to darker supporting as she proves in The Master. Adams is poker-faced throughout, cradling her mysteriously pregnant belly, holding so much power over the man in her life and yet being, in many ways, powerless. Like Field’s Mary Lincoln, Adams’ is very much the support of the males, existing only to serve them. What does she want? Who is she really? We never know. In the film she represents the hypocrisy of a sexually radical group that pretends to be chaste. The Master is all about the underbelly being preserved along with what we see on the surface.
Helen Hunt, like all of the Supporting Actresses other than Anne Hathaway, exists as someone to aid or help a man through his own character arc. But Hunt’s is really the only lead disguised as a supporting part, which gives her an unfair advantage. Warm, kind and exposed, it’s always a moving experience to watch Helen Hunt on screen. She shows herself completely naked, at almost 50. For that alone she is worthy.
Jacki Weaver is one of the sweetest things about Silver Linings Playbook. She is impossible not to like as she hovers in the background about ready to fall apart. She provides the backbone for the family – in typical David O. Russell fashion, mothers are there to stay come what may. Weaver is interesting because she plays the polar opposite of her turn in Animal Kingdom. That shows extraordinary range. That she got both of these parts and was nominated for both is impressive for a woman hitting the awards race at such a late age.
Barring some 11th hour shocker, I can’t see anyone else but Hathaway winning this. But if it isn’t Hathaway, it’s anyone’s game. Weaver, Adams and Hathaway are the only three who haven’t won previously.