One of the biggest surprises of 2013 so far is Destin Cretton’s Short Term 12. It’s the kind of movie that seems “too little” to break through to Oscar, and maybe will only land at the Spirit Awards. But the truth of it is that Brie Larson’s performance as Grace will probably capture enough hearts to break through in a very crowded category.
(minor spoiler warning)
Larson’s Grace isn’t the kind of female characters who get written anymore. She’s the lead in a well acted ensemble as well as the strong protagonist in the narrative. In other words, she’s in charge of group home looking after wayward foster kids. Grace makes a good boss because she herself was a foster kid, one who nearly died from physical abuse (her own) and sexual abuse (her father’s). Though she struggles to maintain her sanity amid the often careless choices social workers make, what’s remarkable about Grace is how well she holds it together and how good she is at her job.
The thing of it is, Larson’s is the kind of performance that stands out because you care about her, you care what happens to her. She takes you on an emotional journey with the help of Cretton’s already award-winning screenplay (it was one of the five that took the Nicholl in 2010 — like that contest needs anymore publicity)
Larson’s performance, as it turns out, also is already award-winning, with Best Actress from the Larcarno Film Fest in the bag. Okay, so it’s not the world’s most known festival but the film strikes me as one that will likely keep winning stuff.
It’s true that Best Actress is a crowded category. Cate Blanchett has taken the early lead, but she’ll have lots of tough competition from Amy Adams in American Hustle, Emma Thompson in Saving Mr. Banks, Sandra Bullock in Gravity, Julia Roberts in August: Osage County, Judi Dench in Philomena, Kate Winslet in Labor Day, to say nothing of Julie Delpy in Before Midnight, Nicole Kidman in Grace of Monaco and Naomi Watts in Diana. The A-listers have their place in line first and that makes it all the harder for Larson to break through. It’s not impossible, of course, as most of these speculative nominees have not yet been seen. Either they will all be as impressive as they look on the page or they won’t. That will determine whether Larson can make the cut — and really, she deserves it. No, she isn’t going to do what Jennifer Lawrence did in Winter’s Bone — impress critics with a great performance, and then show up on the red carpet looking like a model — or, on second thought, she just might.
Not to put too fine a point on it but youth is a check Larson can cash right now. And there’s another check she can cash — the Oscar demographic thinks with TWO organs and it’s a mistake to neglect one or the other. Talent gets you in the door, sex often gets you a nomination. Weirdly, this was not the case last year when Marion Cotillard’s nomination was replaced by the wonderful Emmanuelle Riva in Amour.
That puts Larson head to head with the lead from Blue is the Warmest Colour, Adèle Exarchopoulos, who not only gives a brilliant performance but is also seen in a lengthy graphic lesbian sex scene and will have no problem showing up on the red carpet looking like a tasty treat. Perhaps this sounds harsh and perhaps no one likes to be referred to in this manner but I think we all know that sex sells, in advertising, in music and at the Oscars.
Whether she earns an Oscar nomination or not, Larson will have proven herself to be a formidable talent this year, along with writer/director Destin Cretton. Expect to hear a lot more about Short Term as its buzz and good word of mouth spreads like wildfire.
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