Reese Witherspoon continues her reign as Most Valuable Player in the Oscar race this year, having produced two films (Wild and Gone Girl) and starred in two, all the while challenging herself in unexpected ways. In Wild, we follow her journey as Cheryl Strayed, who hiked the Pacific Crest Trail and lived to tell about it. Witherspoon’s Strayed carries the entire film – just her, the food, her fears and her grief. It’s a spectacular performance. Also in the picture, another lost woman – Hilary Swank who stars in the feminist take on the western, The Homesman. Swank has never been better in a film that is not an easy sit. Swank, like Witherspoon, plays that rare breed of female who is smart and capable yet unwittingly undone by having no opportunities.
Three more leads fill the frame, including the frontrunner, Julianne Moore whose performance in Still Alice is reportedly heartbreaking. Amy Adams in Big Eyes, a standout in Burton’s film, and Felicity Jones, who plays Jane Hawking, the woman who is almost responsible for saving Stephen Hawking’s life and thus, changing the way we view the universe and ourselves within it.
Two supporting actresses in the mix, including the frontrunner, Patricia Arquette – her complicated young mother in Boyhood who evolves as her children grow. Arquette held this character in her mind and heart for 12 years, delivering not just the best supporting turn of the year but one of the best performances overall. And finally, Laura Dern who is partnered with Witherspoon in Wild, as her free spirited mother whose death inspires Witherspoon’s character to something, anything to ease the pain of her loss.
These are varied, interesting and complex roles for women in this photo here.