Friday, October 12, 2012

A Closer Look: 2011 Supporting Actress

So, next in line in the special edition of ‘A Closer Look’ is the 2011 Supporting Actress lineup.  For a refresher, here are the nominees:
I was entirely underwhelmed all season by this inevitable lineup.  There were so many options the chose from that would have been so much more deserving, and so when this lineup became so ‘clear’ I became disinterested.  The only hope I had was that Bejo was going to pull a surprise win on Oscar night in all the ‘Artist’ adoration.  Sadly, that didn’t happen.  This isn’t to say that Spencer gives a bad performance, it is just so one note and clichéd that I can’t rally behind it.  If someone from ‘The Help’ was going to win in this category, we all know that it should have been Jessica Chastain.
Chastain.  DAMN.  She had one of the single best years any actress could ever have and possibly better than any actress has in a LONG time.  Talk about a way to break into the business.  She must have the greatest agent in the universe (she’s even in the conversation again this year).  She managed a nomination for ‘The Help’, although I really wish she had been cited for ‘The Tree of Life’ instead, which was a much more complex and provocative performance.  ‘Take Shelter’ was also top notch and deserved notices.  Chastain seriously had one hell of a year.  It’s just a shame that she doesn’t make my personal ballot.  Still, I’m not mad at her nomination since she brings some of the most depth found in the entire ensemble and really sells her key moments (the confrontation scene with Bryce Dallas Howard was astonishingly played) and finds a way to add layers to what could have been a stock, clichéd, ditzy blonde role.
Bejo is Lead in her film, and she is delightful, but nothing so special so as to deserve a nomination.  She doesn’t have the same precision that DuJardin had and so she was always one step behind him.  She definitely stole our hearts, but she was always second fiddle.  She has a light in her eyes and a bounce in her step, but to be honest I always felt like she was trying.  DuJardin was just naturally charismatic and effortless in the role.  Bejo was a notch below that.
I liked McTeer.  She found a way to shade her character really well, and the physicality of the performance was truly felt throughout, but at the end of the day there just wasn’t a whole lot there.  She didn’t have the same emotional connection that Close did, even if she somewhat handled the ‘performance’ factor better.  She was the more aggressive of the two and so she did steal our attention, but the performance as a whole was dampened by the skeletal screenplay which really did no one any favors and left McTeer with little to hold onto.  She gave it her all, and sold her scenes, but I thought that Wasikowska showed a better range of emotions and sold her character with more impact.
It’s funny, because the whole idea of replacing a nominee with a co-star could apply here in spades.  I’d replace McTeer with Wasikowska.  I’d replace Spencer with Cicely Tyson (since Chastain was already nominated) and I’d replace McCarthy with Byrne.  Now, none of the replacements would make my personal ballot (Byrne comes close) but they would all have made more deserving nominations.
My problem with McCarthy is not the performance, which was fun, or the shades of depth, which were there, but the fact that she basically boiled down to a bucket of punch-lines and she had the majority of her scenes ripped out from under her by Rose Byrne, who nearly stole the whole show away from Kristen Wiig, who was on fire.  McCarthy was funny but funny doesn’t always cut it.  You need to be more than that, and I didn’t really see that in her. 
Byrne was funnier.
And so that leaves us with Spencer, the actual Oscar winner.  What can I say?  She steamrolled through Oscar season snagging every win imaginable, which baffles me (and many Oscar followers) to no end.  It’s not like there is ANYTHING special about this performance.  She cracks some jokes, makes crazy eyes and cries a bit.  All of her key scenes are shared with either Chastain or Davis, both of which blow her out of the water with complexities.  I mean, it is a fine performance in a rather strong ensemble, but she hardly carries the ensemble and probably is about fifth or sixth down the line in actual strength.  It doesn’t help that her character is somewhat of an insult in itself (but the script is really to blame for that).  I think the most insulting part is that she became the film’s sole acting win.  Had Davis won the Lead Actress Oscar then they could be seen as a pair, and in that pair Spencer is stronger, but on her own she’s a weaker entity.
I’d rank them as follows:
1)      Chastain
2)      Bejo
3)      McTeer
4)      Spencer
5)      McCarthy
Their careers are harder to judge.  Spencer has been working for over a decade, mostly in television and then she had a ton of cameo and forgettable scenes in some big films (Spider-Man, S.W.A.T., Bad Santa).  I mean, 2011 was kind of her breakout.  Until that, she was basically only known for TV.  McCarthy is kind of the same way.  She had more film roles (who can forget her role in The Life of David Gale?) but really, until 2011 (which was HUGE for her) she was best known for her show ‘Mike & Molly’, which was only a year old at that point.  Bejo was bigger in France, but over here she had that small role as Shannyn Sossamon’s lady in waiting in ‘A Knight’s Tale’.  Yeah, I didn’t even know that was her until I looked her up on IMDB five minutes ago.  And then you have Chastain who basically debuted at life in 2011.  That said, her string of STRONG performances throughout the year place her above all three of the other actresses already mentioned.
So, McTeer wins at this right?  I mean, she doesn’t work that often, but she has a slew of respectable performances under her belt.  She beats all with ‘Tumbleweeds’ and ‘Tumbleweeds’ alone.
1)      McTeer
2)      Chastain
3)      McCarthy
4)      Spencer
5)      Bejo (mostly because I’ve seen none of her French films)
Back to their nominated performances…like I said, none of the performances are bad, but Chastain is the only deserving nominee, and when you consider that AMPAS could have nominated Mulligan or Redgrave (both of whom were on their radar) then this lineup becomes more and more embarrassing.
But, here is a lineup devoid of embarrassment:
You can also check out the Supporting Actress lineups for 1991 and 2009 on their respective pages.


  1. Chastain could've filled my entire Supporting lineup, even though I'd give Melanie Laurent the win. I would easily nominate for any one of her performances in Take Shelter, TTOL, The Help, The Debt, or Coriolanus. She gets a nom for Take Shelter, but just barely over TTOL.

    Yep. Byrne was WAY better than McCarthy, who does almost nothing but spout a few one-liners.

    Agree on both rankings.

    Awesome lineup. Bayat just misses mine, but I have Laurent, Mulligan and Redgrave in there. Love the 3 Chastain mentions, and HAYDEN PANETTIERE!!! :) I thought I was the only one who loved her performance. Obviously, she had no chance once I saw more performances, but she was great.

    1. Scream 4 was the dead LAST film I saw from 2011 before doing my ballots and I must say, I effing LOVED Panettiere. Like, it made me reevaluate my feelings on her entire career. She as that good.

    2. I saw it in theaters, but I totally agree.