February 12, 2016
Will Win: Brie Larson
Could Win: Saoirse Ronan
Should Win: Brie Larson
This year’s Best Actress category presents a classically varied cast of characters: A young victim of abduction who finds her strength in the upbringing of her son, a wife who discovers a dark secret about her husband’s past amid planning for their 45th anniversary, a single-mother turned entrepreneur and marketing maven, a glamorous New Yorker who engages in a hushed lesbian affair during the 1950s, and a young Irish immigrant in Brooklyn torn between the love of her life and her homeland.
The nominees range from the ages of 21 to 69, and out of the five women, three are veteran nominees. Jennifer Lawrence, nominated for “Joy,” and Cate Blanchett, nominated for “Carol,” are both previous winners in the category, while Dublin-native Saoirse Ronan was awarded her first nomination at the age of 12. However this year, the predicted winner is a relative newcomer. Brie Larson is rumored to be a shoo-in for the prize. Larson stunned audiences with her performance in “Room,” this year’s adaptation of Emma Donoghue’s 2010 novel directed by Lenny Abrahamson.
Larson won the Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Drama this last January, and at the age of 26, she is being lauded as 2015’s breakout star. This is not to say Larson is a newcomer to the industry in any way. In fact, she has been in show-business since her childhood and even has a semi-successful career as a teenage pop-star under her belt. However, in the last few years, Larson has resurfaced in a series of low-profile indie films which have gained her immense critical praise. Critics even said that she was snubbed a nomination for her performance as a social worker in 2013’s “Short Term 12.” With “Room,” Larson has made her stake as one of Hollywood’s most talented young actresses.
The story of “Room” follows Ma and her son Jack, held captive by a sexual predator who kidnapped Ma during her high school years. The first half of the film revolves around Ma and Jack in Room, with Jack, born in the vile conditions, not realizing that there is a world outside of the small square of space he has grown up in. Ma, however, through towering fortitude, is able to raise her son in the happiest of conditions she can muster within her limited conditions. When Ma, however, discovers a chance to escape, she enlists Jack to help her in the ultimately decisive endeavor, with the story then taking a turn to document the lives of Ma and Jack post-release, as Ma now begins to raise her son in the real world, and Jack adjusts to the concept that the world is much vaster than a dusky backyard shed.
Her performance — nuanced, subtle, and brave all in the same — is winning her some pretty solid odds at the Best Actress title. She plays the character of “Ma” with a certain depth, courageously portraying a woman who has been held in captivity and impregnated as a result of sexual assault by her captor. Larson’s crowning achievement, however, comes through her depiction of the subsequent recovery that Ma experiences as she reacquaints herself to the real world following her release. The swift transition is the most notable aspect of Larson’s performance.
In captivity, Ma is a warrior: a powerful mother figure intent on raising her son to the best of her ability and reclaiming her freedom. However, immediately following her release, Ma’s personality undergoes a shift. Reunited with her family, bombarded with media attention, and realizing the years of her life that she has lost to captivity, Ma becomes abrasive, afraid, and proves to be the
very young girl she has been all along but has been keeping hidden to protect her son. Through this gradual on-screen progression, Larson shows a keen aptitude for understanding and embracing the character-development of Ma.
Her only competition, although highly improbable, is Ronan for her role as Eilis in “Brooklyn.” Ronan’s performance is a graceful one, and she pulls off the film’s emotional highs and lows with wit and grace. Ronan’s talent is undeniable, but as far as award season showings go, it seems like this year, the statue is Larson’s to lose. Although Lawrence has proven to be an Academy darling, “Joy,” did not receive particularly rave reviews due to a lackluster storyline, and as far as “Carol” goes, most of the attention seems to be going to Blanchett’s co-star, Rooney Mara, who has been nominated in the supporting actress category. Some say Charlotte Rampling could be this year’s dark horse for her portrayal of a woman in a broken marriage in “45 years,” but again, it’s a long-shot. It’s Larson’s year, and rightfully so.