Oscars Blog: Best Actress -Does Saoirse Ronan have a chance?
Published 23/02/2016 | 11:09
Meadhbh McGrath examines Irish actress Saoirse Ronan's chances at Sunday's 88th annual Academy Awards.
Cate Blanchett – Carol
Brie Larson – Room
Jennifer Lawrence – Joy
Charlotte Rampling – 45 Years
Saoirse Ronan - Brooklyn
When it comes to Best Actress, the Academy (and Hollywood in general) prefers its women young. Amongst the nominees this year are Jennifer Lawrence (25), Saoirse Ronan (21) and the frontrunner Brie Larson (26).
Larson’s frontrunner status has a lot to do with her Oscar narrative - that of the charming young ingénue. Jennifer Lawrence has been keeping that seat warm the past few years, since her first nomination for A Winter’s Bone in 2011 and her subsequent win for Silver Linings Playbook in 2013. Despite her Golden Globe win last month, there hasn’t been much love for Joy, and Lawrence is unlikely to take home the gold on Sunday night.
It gives an interesting (and dismaying) insight into what the Academy considers the prime of an actress’s career.
There’s a notable history of actresses in their twenties getting nominated (and winning). The narrative of the charming young ingénue brought great success to the likes of Reese Witherspoon (who won in 2006 for Walk the Line) and Natalie Portman (who won in 2011 for Black Swan), who both took home Oscars before they hit 30, and nominations for Emma Stone, Rooney Mara, and Carey Mulligan.
Of course, Larson is up against a pair of fellow ingenues, so what sets her campaign apart? For one thing, it helps that there's a personal story behind her performance.
Larson has spoken very eloquently about her childhood and being raised by a single mum. Although Larson herself is not a mother, she played one very convincingly by incorporating her experience and memories of her own mother’s struggle into her portrayal.
The ability to tie your performance or your film into something deeply personal is a fail-safe way to ensure your Oscar campaign is remembered when it comes to filling out that ballot. Room has also earned nods for Best Picture, Best Director (Irishman Lenny Abrahamson's first nomination) and Best Screenplay, so there’s clearly significant support for the film in the Academy.
The legendary Oscar campaigner Harvey Weinstein is really pushing for Cate Blanchett to win for Carol, but she already has two in the bag, and quite a recent two – for The Aviator in 2005, and for Blue Jasmine in 2014. On top of that, her film has proved divisive, with some voters saying they found the romantic drama “cold” and “emotionally distant”.
For awhile, Charlotte Rampling seemed like a dark horse in the race for her impeccable performance in 45 Years. She’s the oldest nominee in the category at 70, and voters can get excited about giving a critical favourite with nearly 50 years experience her first taste of Oscar glory.
It worked for Jessica Tandy (then 80 years old) in 1990 when she won for Driving Miss Daisy, the first nomination in her nearly 60-year career.
However, Rampling didn’t do herself any favours when she spoke bluntly about the #OscarsSoWhite diversity scandal surrounding this year’s ceremony, calling the movement “racist against whites”. She went on: “One can never really know, but sometimes maybe black actors did not deserve to make the final list.”
Not only did her comments make headlines, but they likely put an end to any chances she had of taking home a statue.
For a long time, it looked like Best Actress would be a head-to-head battle between Larson and Saoirse Ronan, but at this point Larson is pretty much a shoo in.
She’s taken home the most hardware so far, and, as well as earning critical praise for her performance in Room; she’s gained the love of audiences and voters alike as the sweetheart lighting up the campaign trail – remember her Golden Globes acceptance speech where she promised to write a thank you note to anyone she had forgotten to mention? Those types of speeches can do a lot to help a nominee’s odds.
So, does Saoirse have a chance? If nothing else, now everyone in Hollywood is very confident about pronouncing her name. Both actresses have the ingénue narrative working for them, but while Ronan gives an excellent performance in an otherwise quite traditional film, Larson’s film is much more challenging.
This is also Ronan’s second nomination, having competed in the best supporting actress race back in 2008 for Atonement. Larson, on the other hand, has received critical acclaim for indies like Short Term 12, but was relatively unknown even six months ago as Amy Schumer’s well-behaved sister in the summer hit Trainwreck.
Although Larson’s win seems inevitable at this point, Saoirse Ronan is the only other nominee who could cause a possible upset in this category, but it would be a shock. Best Actress looks like Larson’s to lose.