I'm going to release this statement, no matter how irrelevant, pointless and helpless it might be: I can’t believe that Jessica Chastain, but also Emmanuelle Riva and also adding Naomi Watts, specially Marion Cotillard are losing all of the awards, and will lose the Oscar over Jennifer Lawrence and her performance as a young widow, insanely hot young widow, who does everything she can to be with a guy who happens to suffer a mental illness that makes him an unusual upfront, direct and intense man. I’m suffering in anticipation, even though at this point being almost guaranteed that Jennifer Lawrence will win the Oscar, has it actually been anticipated for months. Unless they pull a Marion Cotillard, when she made it against all odds, in this case someone else would win but Jennifer Lawrence, ironically it could also be a French woman.
Now I will defend my statement, even if I don’t really have reasons to complain about: by now I’ve seen many films from this season, many ‘Oscar’ films, the ones who were eligible and the ones who were not, and I can make an overall view. They are all great contributions, brave performances, some way bolder than others, some way subtle than others. I really don’t want to upgrade ones in favor of the others, and so on.
So I enjoyed Silver Linings Playbook. I did. But it’s not that great, it’s exceptional because it is a good romantic comedy, it does bring a wonderful and often amusing tone to a difficult subject as it is a mental illness. A bipolar man, Pat, struggles with his decease and wants to get his life together. The young woman, Tiffany, enters in his life as he begins his recovery. She’s also fragile, unstable, after his husband’s death and we can see that through her rollercoaster of emotions, at the same time she’s as direct and open as Pat, except Pat has a much harder time accepting his own flaws, not necessarily negative ones. She’s a wonderful spirit, an upbeat and admiring example of female character in her own terms honest and liberating. Jennifer Lawrence brings life, this may sound really superficial, but it’s what makes sense, she really brings life and, like I said some other time, the unconventional tone to Tiffany. But now I want to add this line, after I read this article about the film, by Brian Donovan, where he states his reasons why Silver Linings is the best film of the year. I really can’t get some lines out of my mind: he starts by saying that Jennifer Lawrence and Lena Dunham are the people that frighten him the most in the all world. Really, in the all world?? Dude, that’s just fucked up. He couldn’t live in China, certainty not in Syria because he would shit his pants every day. And I didn’t even have to go that far, I’m sure not far away from him there’s hell, except that he doesn’t know it. When he starts resuming Silver Lining’s storyline, you know, a depressing widow, a bipolar man, he states that “Those might be the four most depressing sentences I’ve written in my life, and they’re only the first 20 minutes of the movie”. Common? Really? Like, really? To me, depressing is reading about a girl who was sold by her parents at the age of twelve and sent to prostitution, and then when she was able to return to her village at the age of thirteen she was sold again, until finally she returned again and found shelter in a women’s association where she died of HIV at the age of fourteen. Depressing is looking at the kids ‘living’ in Gaza, complaining about their smelly clothes, about their dolls smelling like gasoline all the time, being afraid that at any time they might be blown up. Or a girl studying for her exams and not being able to do it because they’re shooting at her house, she really wants to study but she can’t. A kid dying of a cancer that the health insurance denies to cover because it’s a family thing, now that’s fucking depressing. I certainly don’t want to devalue the film’s decease, a serious decease, but in Silver Linings Playbook, Pat does have a warming and welcoming family who is very patient with him, who loves him unconditionally. Pat is able to live quite peacefully if he really works on it. Common, it can’t be the most depressing twenty minutes, I mean, let’s open our minds a little, especially the guy who wrote the article, I don’t know his background but it doesn’t matter. Yes, it’s inspiring to see a story where all the characters care, are honest. But let’s not get over ourselves.
This is probably what pisses me off about Jennifer’s winning, it’s this article in particular and/or others like this one, because I have no big problems with people winning Oscars, including her.
Ok, now that I spoken about the latter issue, I want to take a look at the other performances. Like Emmanuelle Riva’s. In Amour, it is because she’s so natural through the different stages of her character that you can’t imagine the devastating, the overwhelming magnitude of her giving. It is as demanding as you can imagine, and she makes it look all so natural that it’s just simply heartbreaking. It’s precisely because it doesn’t look like a performance that Riva’s performance is so devastating.
Like Marion Cotillard in Rust and Bone, there are so many layers to be addressed about her performance in this film. Stephanie is quite an intriguing, difficult and unapologetic woman. Even though she’s suffering so much from her accident she still is who she is, there’s no pity, but there’s that quiet suffering. It’s all about what we can discover in her eyes, in her look. What we can somehow figure it out is that she’s an imperfect human being like any other, struggling the best way she can, in her own terms. It’s a demanding role and she made it happen, brought Stephanie’s reality to us. It’s one of the rare good opportunities for Marion to bring her strengths to the screen, she had to give a lot, bare everything and she did it.
Like Jessica Chastain in Zero Dark Thirty. Like Marion Cotillard’s Stephanie, Maya is not an easy character, maybe she’s even more obscure then Stephanie. She’s certainly hard to be figured it out because there are simply not many clues. It’s surprising that she got an Oscar nomination with all the noise from the controversy. As a matter of fact, Jessica Chastain’s Maya is the last member likely to win the Oscar, even though she certainly deserves it as much as any other, but I think she brings the fewer possibilities, which leads me to Naomi Watts in The Impossible. This is a film about the human strength and resilience and about family and Naomi Watts couldn’t possibility look more motherly in this film. I was very moved and touched by this film, like she said it felt very true, and I also think that even though they focus in this one family we can see everything outside this family. We understand the luck and the ones who weren’t so lucky, the human spirit at times warm and other times ruthless. Anyway, Naomi Watts balances human being’s strength and a mother’s strength, combines all the devastation, the physical suffering, the heartbreak, with warmth and subtlety.
Melanie Lynskey, in Hello I Must be Going, has her moment. She feels refreshing because she’s this compromising pattern, she’s able of not only being easily relatable, playing any kind of part, including a grieving divorced woman, but also bringing somehow something that feels unsurpassed. And she’s endearing and charming.
Quvenzhané Wallis feels to me like another tribute to the film and its director more than the particular ‘performance’. Her character carries the film, that’s true, but so does Dwight Henry, so where the hell is he??
The annoying fact is that there are many other compelling performances out there that it is just unfair to be mentioning just these few. Keira Knightley’s performance in Anna Karenina is something we kind of expect from her, of course this is not an excuse to not give her awards, but apparently it kind of is. Léa Seydoux in Sister and Farewell, My Queen is unique. Alicia Vikander in A Royal Affair is absolutely charming. Rachel Mwanza in Rebelle, like Wallis in Beasts, carries the film beautifully. I still haven’t seen films like Middle of Nowhere, like Smashed, like Starlet, like Ginger and Rosa. Including comedian performances too, but all of these performances need to gather a certain number of aspects to be ‘Oscar’ Contenders, so let’s not tire ourselves! They should all be contenders, but it’s just hard to be…
I really can’t imagine Meryl Streep voting for Jennifer Lawrence, I really can’t. There’s also this question about being such an open category. It is because it is open that I feel like they will end up falling for the same person. And in this case, it’s Jennifer Lawrence to win. As you can see I don’t really have a big case to debate, I’m happy for anyone who wins, in fact big congratulations to Jennifer Lawrence for all the awards. But still, I can’t believe she’s winning. I can’t believe the others are losing over her.