Michelle Williams has come a long way since the Creek. She's built her reputation slowly with strong supporting roles in small indies like The Station Agent, Prozac Nation, Imaginary Heroes & scored an Oscar nomination for playing the betrayed wife of real-life partner Heath Ledger in Brokeback Mountain.
Since her Oscar nomination, she has been reliably brilliant, pouring intensity & focus into every small role she’s played. She has pretty much entirely avoided big Hollywood & focused on interesting indies, culminating in her critical breakthrough in the intimate & highly celebrated Wendy & Lucy. As indie & artsy as they come, she had no shot at major award nominations, but was still considered to be in the running.
This year she was memorable as one of Leonardo’s DiCaprio’s set of crazy dead wives in Martin Scorsese’s Shutter Island, and teamed up again with Wendy & Lucy director Kelly Reichardt’s feminist western, Meek's Cutoff. Both roles brought in the acclaim, but none as rich & adoring as her work in Derek Cianfrance’s Blue Valentine.
Years in the making, and a labour of love for writer / director Derek Cianfrance, critics have praised Blue Valentine for its uncompromising authenticity & have raved Williams and co-star Ryan Gosling's portrayal of a young couple trying to salvage their marriage. The film’s indie pedigree & challenging subject matter is the only thing putting a question mark over their chances of being sure-bet nominees.
The whole NC-17 rating debacle (the film was initially classified as erotica, before the Weinsteins made a convincing appeal plea to the MPAA, and had the rating overturned) actually gave the film some much-needed publicity, and the critics awards clearly declared their love in the various Critic Circle nominations. The Golden Globes gave them a welcome mainstream boost, but the Screen Actors Guild gave them a skip (in favour of freaking Hilary Swank & - more understandably - Robert DuVall).
Broader Academy recognition could help the actors along. With 10 slots, it is not unthinkable that Blue
Valentine, one of the year’s most acclaimed, but depressing, films, could land a slot. More likely, however, it will be a strong contender for Original Screenplay.
I have yet to see the film, but I think so highly of both actors and their considerable commitment to their craft, that they are right on top of my Oscar wishlist.
Wendy & Lucy: