Thursday, March 3, 2011

Oscar contenders - Best Actress: Leslie Manville

Originally posted on 16 Jan 2011:

Mike Leigh is a legend - no one creates more compassionate & beautifully observed cinema from the British working class. His latest, Another Year, is said to be one of his best.

He has a brilliant reputation for extraordinarily well-written female parts (his characters are developed, together with his actors, during filming). Just think of Brenda Blethyn & Marianne Jean-Baptiste in Secrets and Lies, Imelda Staunton in Vera Drake &, most recently, Sally Hawkins in Happy-go-lucky. Legendary.

Now Leslie Manville joins the list with her highly raved performance as Mary, a scattered, insecure, flirt deteriorating with age in Another Year. Early reviews from Cannes sang her praises, although the Cannes Best Actress award went to Juliette Binoche, and she went on to win several critics awards nominations, some of the year's most ecstatic reviews, and the top prize from the National Board of Review.

Manville has worked with Leigh before, most notably in 1999's Topsy Turvy and 2002's All or Nothing, and she clearly made an impression, as he phoned her up again to play smaller parts in his acclaimed Secrets & Lies, Vera Drake and now Another Year.

She is still a bit of an Oscar longshot, however, perhaps because she is a bit of an unknown in Hollywood (which did not stop Brenda Blethyn from being nominated), and perhaps because Another Year is more of an ensemble piece. She could likely have been a frontrunner to win in Supporting Actress, but the producers have pushed her steadily for lead. It will be worth it if it works out, but with so many big Hollywood actresses making an impression this year, and Jennifer Lawrence stealing the newcomer slot, a Manville nomination would be a surprise, albeit a welcome one.

Another Year has been disappointingly sidlined in this year's awards, but should do well at th BAFTAs. Manville is being considered a supporting actress at the BAFTAs, though, so even her likely nomination and win there may not have a big enough impact on the Oscar race. If she maks it, it will be on the strength of her great reviews.

Awards Daily's Sasha Stone was one of the first to rave Manville's performance coming out of Cannes. An excerpt from her review, below:

'It is the brilliance of Lesley Manville that her kind of crazy is not one you get inside easily.  You have to first get past your own judgment of her.  She is a person you would naturally shy away from if you worked with her or happened to bump into her in the market or the bank.  If you’re a woman, she will be nervous and competitive.  If you are a man you’re automatically a potential date.  She never stops talking about herself because she is a black hole of need.  If it isn’t happening to her it isn’t happening at all.  But if this was all to the performance, it wouldn’t be one of the best this year.  Buried underneath, of course, is a vulnerability.  Many of our year’s crazy ladies have a soft underbelly, but Manville’s is probably the most heartbreaking.  She is really just a girl, someone who never grew up and never was able to satiate her need for approval and love.  You really do just want to hug her throughout the film, even if she is ultimately destructive.'

'All or Nothing' Trailer:

First 'Another Year' clip:

Second 'Another Year' clip:

Leslie Manville Interview: