This category is poised for a Brie Larson win, but it isn’t necessarily guaranteed. Firstly, of the nominees, Brie Larson is the most worthy for her astonishing performance in Room. It isn’t simply a movie about a woman enduring a horrible circumstance and afterward suffering from extreme PTSD, but it is a performance about love, hope, and the promise of a better future. Larson was able to convey to audiences that her entire life and world was about her son and every action she ever made was for his well-being and protection. Her performance is one of a strong woman, who is intensely fragile at the same time, which is exceedingly difficult to achieve. Lastly, it was a performance of someone rehabilitating herself in a world that she has been caged away from for years. A performance like this is exceedingly rare and the Oscars must acknowledge it. Larson is the frontrunner in this category, having won all precursor awards in the Golden Globes, SAGs, and Critics Choice Awards, the SAG, and the BAFTA, but that doesn’t mean her winning is entirely guaranteed.
Normally this would be enough to secure a win, but Larson is against some stiff competition this year and an upset is very much possible. Her fiercest competition is between Cate Blanchett and Saoirse Ronan. Blanchett’s performance in Carol was captivating (such a description is an understatement). It is a subtle performance, emphasizing the repression of emotion and fear in an era where public displays of emotion weren’t appreciated. Yet Blanchett’s role is one of societal defiance, by choosing love over the demand to conform to an expectation of her that mostly based off her gender. What is most remarkable about Blanchett’s performance is her facial expressions and especially how her eyes convey so much need and desire, but their inherent sadness by knowing she cannot have what she wants. This is a potential Oscar winning performance and was the frontrunner before Brie Larson’s performance became noticed. If anyone can achieve an upset, it is Blanchett with Carol.
The other threat to Larson is Saoirse Ronan for Brooklyn. This film very easily could have been underrated, or worse, completely ignored. The primary reason this is an extraordinary film about attaining the American dream while falling in love was because it was heavily dependent upon Saoirse Ronan’s performance, which she excelled at. The film follows her journey as an Irish immigrant, who travels a difficult journey across the Atlantic Ocean to New York, endures the reality of being homesick, finds love unexpectedly, but ultimately is at a crossroads when tragedy occurs back home. Ronan’s performance is tender, magnetic, and truly reminds audiences of the promise of a better life and sometimes having to endure the potential conflicts that occur in that process. Ronan’s performance also was one that differentiated the concept of new versus old generation mentality and the need to adapt to modern times in order to value life and the world where it currently stands. Ronan is an up-and-comer with the Oscars (having gotten her first Oscar nomination at the age of 13 for Atonement) and easily she, too, could pull an upset in the Best Actress category.
There are slim chances for both Charlotte Rampling and Jennifer Lawrence, but both are unlikely. Rampling was the surprise nominee and a win would come seemingly out of nowhere. However, Rampling’s performance is extraordinary as someone who is enduring internalized conflict when she questions if her marriage of 45 years was built off of a lie. Jennifer Lawrence barely got nominated for Joy, which received mixed reactions and reviews from both critics and audiences. However, Lawrence did win the Golden Globe for her performance and the Academy loves her, which means she undoubtedly will be on the minds of voters. If Lawrence were to win, it would be due to Larson, Blanchett, and Ronan all canceling each other out.
Cate Blanchett – Carol
Brie Larson – Room
Jennifer Lawrence – Joy
Charlotte Rampling – 45 Years
Saoirse Ronan – Brooklyn
Will Win: Brie Larson – Room
Could Win: Cate Blanchett – Carol
Should Win: Brie Larson – Room
Could Upset: Saoirse Ronan – Brooklyn