So tomorrow morning, Stinkylulu is doing the 1999 supporting actress smackdown. So here are my picks.
Overall, it's a strange experience where you're looking at actresses who are currently in the prime of their careers. We're still watching them, and now reviewing performances that are the crystallization of that thing they do in most cases, is wierdly offputting, meaning I felt I couldn't be as objective as this usually feels with a little more distance. This is also the first year where I still have memories of watching the majority of these films when they were released. Overall, it's a strong year, but I was kind of surprised at which performances fell flat a bit for me. So here goes
Toni Collette in The Sixth Sense. I loved this performance. I do love Toni Collette, even though I feel some of her earlier performances were a little "actory". This is the first performance I was really blown away by, feeling that she dropped doing to much and did just enough. And in that, delivers the scene that I remember most in the movie. I think the nomination is probably based on that scene, but watching it again makes me realize it's the woman she's set up, the one who cares for her son deeply, that makes it as resonant as it is. It's a great scene, but her more than solid work before that makes it even more brilliant. It's my favorite performance in the film by far. Even more than Mischa Barton as Linda Blair.
Angelina Jolie in Girl, Interrupted. She delivers what by now feels a standard Jolie performance--fascinating, energy sucking, combative, more than present. She takes any light in the room, and is fascinating on screen. The perf feels almost bigger than the movie, and it's one of the three in this year that verges on lead. She does great work, and pulls us into the character the way Ryder's character is. Strangely, though, I didn't quite believe the scene in the basement (perhaps because what came before it was so in your face it was challenging to believe this character would breakdown; perhaps because I have difficulty with any time I'm supposed to believe Ryder as assertive). I do think it's a great performance, and like Sevigny is the catalyst for most that happens, but it's second for me to Collette. And in the end, I was more emotionally interested in the scenes with Britanny Murphy--even to the point of feeling that hers is the most suprising performances of the film. And I love Ryder's mental istitution equivalent of the workout montage (I need to find the link from Stinkylulu, but he's written about it in most male/army films)
Catherine Keener in Being John Malkovich. I love this movie. I kept watching it thinking "I can't believe this got made". Still. Against all odds, it would seem, it completely works. Diaz gives one of her best performances freed of having to be the most chipper and beautiful girl in the room, and there are some brilliant supporting performances from Mary Kay Place and Orson Bean. He's just excellent. Keener does almost a fantasia of her own tough cookie, smart and sassy broad roles she's known for, seemingly speaking only in lines that most actors would have as subtext for something much more polite. Her scenes have a great improv feel to them, and I can't imagine anyone else in the role. Like Jolie, though, I think it's almost another lead. I also don't quite think there is much of a transformation in the character. Maybe it's shortcoming of the script, but it feels that she's having such a great time being arch that the other stuff falls a bit away. And without that, I don't quite believe the ending.
Samantha Morton in Sweet and Lowdown. I don't think she's helped at all by the script (though it must have been easy to learn her lines--haHA), but I was left a little confused by the character. I did leave wondering if she was slow, challenged, or just easily confused. Unfortunately, she's constructed as something for Penn's great characterization to bounce against. As such she does her job, and some of her luminous comes forward, but I was mostly confused about what she was thinking, or if she was thinking, and then equally confounded why the main character was so pulled to her. I saw her trying to bring the tenderness to the role and give us some hook into the relationship, but she ended up feeling like an incomplete thought from the director. I remember her moment with the tire, and caught some transendence there, as well as a the poignancy of the last scene, but the performance in the end was disappointing to me. And that's sad, because I really love her as an actress. And I love the director, and his choice of actresses. It's a wierd disappointment for me from both of them, mostly I think from him. It even makes me sad to write that. :(
Chloe Sevigny in Boys Don't Cry. How this movie was passed over for Best Picture in favor of Cider House Rules and The Green Mile is beyond me. It's brilliant. Even more considering she made it in thirty days. It's emotionally devastating, and driven by an astounding central performance. Hilary Swank more than deserved that Oscar, especially since I think she kind of pulls Sevigny along with her on some level.This is the third perf along with Jolie and Keener that's almost a second lead. Sevingy's native insousiance works for the bored teenager Lana, but she's unable to break through it later in the film. Though she's definitely present, she comes alive more in the intimacy of the relationship than when the sh** really starts to hit the fan. It's during the violence and the difficulties where she feels a little lost to me, losing the screen to what's happening around her. I just didn't believe that anything that awful was happening, and her breaks felt more like tantrums. Incomplete for me, but in no way diminishing Swank's accomplishment or the brilliance of the film.