Julie Christie: Away from Her
Cate Blanchett: Elizabeth: The Golden Age
Ellen Page: Juno
Laura Linney: The Savages
Marion Cotillard: La Vie en Rose (winner)
As is often the case, there are a few improvements I’d like to make for this category and year. Manuela Velasco’s work in [•REC] is the sort that gets ignored because of its genre, but it’s a great horror movie performance from start to finish. The same could be said of Belen Rueda in The Orphanage, and in a completely open field, Rueda would be very much in contention in my opinion. We’re going to stick in the horror genre with Marcia Gay Harden’s work in The Mist, a truly chilling performance. Honestly, though, the role is probably closer to a supporting one rather than a lead. Stardust is a fantasy film, another typically overlooked genre, but Michelle Pfieffer is wonderfully wicked in it. In terms of roles that could legitimately move into contention, I offer Keira Knightley in Atonement.
Weeding through the Nominees
5. I like Juno a lot less than I’m supposed to. This isn’t the fault of Ellen Page, who is good in the role, but it’s the role itself that I find absolutely infuriating. I don’t buy into the idea of a 16-year-old being as self-aware as Juno is. I don’t buy anyone of any age being this ready and willing to toss out incredibly obscure references at a constant clip. Juno is a collection of quirks more than she is a character, and while Page is good, what she’s asked to do is so beyond any sort of reality that I just can get past it. The character fails for me, so in some respect the performance does as well.
4. Cate Blanchett was great as Queen Elizabeth I in Elizabeth. She’s the same actor playing the same role in Elizabeth: The Golden Age. So why isn’t she higher on this list? Because Elizabeth: The Golden Age is not anywhere close to the movie that the first one was. Blanchett is a talented and wonderful actor and I almost always find her compelling. She’s absolutely the best thing in this movie, but the movie is so much less than it could be that everything about it seems so much less.
3. I like Julie Christie, and I think her performance in Away from Her is a great one. The role places her as a character with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease, which means that she must essentially remain the same character for the length of the film, but clearly lose bits and pieces of herself as the film goes on, a constant diminishing. That’s not easy, and I love that she was nominated for the performance. The simple fact is that I like two of the other performances from this year more, which is why she ends up in third.
2. Had you asked me for my opinion of Laura Linney ten years ago, I wouldn’t have had one. The more I see of her, the more I genuinely like her in film and the more I want to see her. In The Savages, Linney is tasked with presenting a character who is completely real. She’s not the sort of extreme character we often get in films. She’s not the epitome of perfection nor a complete failure. She is instead someone who could easily be a neighbor or a co-worker and who deals with the terrible problems of life like a real person. It’s a great performance, and one I found ultimately very moving. In a different year, I’d give her the statue without a second thought.
1. There could not be another winner for this year other than Marion Cotillard for La Vie en Rose. This is so much an acting class from the beginning to the end. Cotillard isn’t merely playing a role here, but completely inhabiting a personality. I bought her as Edith Piaf from the first moment she arrives on screen to the very last. She’s perfect in the role in every aspect of the character at every point in the film. This is one of my favorite performances from its decade, and there was never a question for me who most deserved the Oscar and where I would have put my vote. There were a lot of great performances for actresses in 2007, but Cotillard’s is the one that is going to be studied for years to come.