A week to the Academy Awards, it’s inevitable that Leonardo DiCaprio will be taking home an Oscar, but it’s the nominees in the Best Actress category that should have people on the edge of their seat. Polls are closing, and people still don’t quite know — What actress will snag the Best Actress Oscar this year?
The race for the Best Actress Oscar is as tight as the category has ever been. There are truly five brilliant performances by women performing at the top of their game, and any one of them could easily be making an acceptance speech come this time next week. Brie Larson, Charlotte Rampling, Cate Blanchett, Jennifer Lawrence and Saoirse Ronan are all well-deserving, but who is likely to pull ahead?
Charlotte Rampling, 45 Years
Apart from the future classic films up for an Academy Awards this year, 2016’s Oscars ceremony will always be remembered for the #OscarsSoWhite boycott. Rampling faced a huge backlash when she said that the whole ordeal seemed like reverse racism to her, and the fact that those comments will follow her to the announcement of the Best Actress winner is a shame. Especially because Charlotte’s performance in 45 Years is the most masterful of the bunch.
As her character digs through her husband’s past life as the couple nears their 45th anniversary, she finds piece after piece pointing to the fact that she was a replacement for a woman he had loved and lost before meeting her. As most of these revelations happen while she’s alone, the subtlety in her work is key. A mere facial tick can reveal that she’s been destroyed or rebuilt by the unraveling of events. Apart from the merits of her performance, Rampling also has the Academy Awards’ situational benefits on her side. She’s a legendary actress who has never been nominated before in a 50-year career. A Best Actress Oscar win, especially when it’s for a performance that’s truly one of her high points, seems perfect.
Brie Larson, Room
Too perfect, it might seem. What Charlotte has in long-awaited recognition, Brie Larson has in newcomer swagger. Room is her first real smash hit. Brie is so inarguably fantastic in Room that she went from throwaway comedy actress to a serious Best Actress Oscar contender in the space of a year. While she doesn’t have the mileage of Rampling, Larson has a physical transformation in Room that none of the four other women up for the Academy Award can claim. Brie looks, sounds, and feels rough in the film, and her campaigning leading up to the ceremony has made sure to drive that point home. Furthermore, she’s got the momentum of a Golden Globe and BAFTA win under her belt. If you’re placing a large bet on the Best Actress category this year, you’d be gutsy to drop your chips anywhere else.
Cate Blanchett, Carol
There’s just no way Cate Blanchett is going to win the Best Actress Oscar this year. First of all, she won for Blue Jasmine in 2014, and that wasn’t even her first win: the Academy picked her portrayal of Katharine Hepburn for Best Supporting Actress in 2005. Apart from that, she’s been nominated seven times and will no doubt revel in the honor several more times in the future. Yes, Larson had an advantage over her at the Golden Globes when she was competing against her Carol co-star Rooney Mara for Best Actress; but that wasn’t the case at the BAFTAs. As usual, she was a revelation in Carol, but that consistency plays against her when it comes to actually winning the Academy Award.
Speaking of track records playing against you, Jennifer Lawrence stands to have her beloved-by-the-public empire come crashing down if she somehow wins for Joy. People have been predicting her downfall all year, and a snarky back-and-forth with a foreign journalist after her Golden Globes win didn’t do her any favors. On top of it, the role — overworked mother with big inspirations — is nowhere near as Best Actress Oscar-worthy as her competitors. Sure, Jennifer is fun to watch in Joy, but even getting nominated was a stretch. A win might be the beginning of a revolt.
Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn
Saoirse Ronan is flat-out the dark horse in the 2016 Best Actress Oscars race. She is what makes Brooklyn more than just a well-executed period romance. Watching her precocious sensibility blossom into a secure maturity is a delight. All right, a believable Irish accent is about as rare in Hollywood as a Marvel superhero movie; and fine, immigrant girl deciding between love and home isn’t quite the challenge of communicating “coming to terms with your sham marriage” or “entering the real world after being locked in a shed for five years.” You still can’t count out Saorise quite like Cate or Lawrence.
That’s all the Academy Award nominees. Who are you calling the 2016 Best Actress Oscar for?
[Image via Kevork Djansezian, Larry Busacca and Clemens Bilan/Getty Images]