This, like most main acting categories, generally doesn’t need a whole lot of introduction as most people are pretty familiar with how these categories work. I will say that I’m pretty strict about what constitutes a true supporting role and don’t always let some of the questionable choices of other awards bodies pass. This year, for instance, I bumped Viola Davis up to the lead actress category.
- Greta Gerwig – 20th Century Women: Greta Gerwig is an actress who has always seemed talented, but she hasn’t always selected the showiest of roles and that has maybe gotten her close to a strange sort of typecasting. She has been expanding a little recently and while she’s still playing the 1979 equivalent of a hipster here she isn’t the same kind of perky character we’re used to seeing from Gerwig. The character she plays has been going through some kind of sad stuff that she’s tying to process and Gerwig does a good job of making her character interesting and lovable even if she isn’t always smiling.
- Rachel House – Hunt for the Wilderpeople: The best comedic performance by a female (possibly by anyone) this year was likely given by Rachel House as a slightly obsessive Child Welfare Services worker on the tail of our heroes in Hunt for the Wilderpeople. Paula is not, however, a sad sack in the movie and House is able to be just as if not more comedic than all the people around her. The character just gets wackier as the movie goes on, but never goes over the top and remains firmly within the tone of the film.
- Michelle Williams – Manchester by the Sea: Michelle Williams doesn’t have a whole lot of screen time in Manchester by the Sea but when she is there she makes an impression. There is of course that one scene, and anyone who’s seen the film knows exactly the scene I’m talking about, but there are some other impressive aspects of the performance as well. Namely there’s just how different she is during the flashbacks than she is during the rest of the movie.
- Naomie Harris – Moonlight: Talk about degree of difficulty. In Moonlight Naomie Harris, a classically trained British actress, is asked to inhabit the life of an impoverished crack addicted Miami mother who engages in some less than sympathetic behavior all while retaining a clear humanity the whole time. On top of that, she needs to depict this character at three different ages and paint this whole portrait with what is ultimately not a ton of screen time. I don’t think that’s easy.
- Kate Dickie- The Witch: Kate Dickie is a Scottish actress with a somewhat unfortunate name who recently raised her profile by playing Lady Lysa Arryn on “Game of Thrones” and then found herself involved in an excellent showcase of skill playing the mother in The Witch. Her character finds herself in a fairly deep depression early in the film which is then exasperated by the strange goings on the family encounters. This eventually builds to a breakdown of sorts where she reveals her true feelings to her husband and it’s pretty powerful.