I noticed a pattern in last night’s winners of the Academy Awards. In just about every case, the winner was essential to the film, perhaps even the decisive factor in making their respective film a success.
“Silver Linings Playbook” is, at heart, a soppy and sentimental romantic comedy. But Jennifer Lawrence’s fierce performance lifted it, in its finest moments, into something much more. Unlike her costar Bradley Cooper, whose nominally borderline character pretty played it “cute and adorable” (the staple traits of RomCom leads), Lawrence made us believe that she was actually dangerous, that there was a dark core running through her character which at any moment might tip over into violence. To me this made the film far more watchable — even interesting — until the movie went all soft and soppy and lost its edge.
And of course I’ve already written here about Anne Hathaway in “Les Miserables”. Without her transformative portrayal of Fantine, and that one extraordinary and pivotal scene, the film would have been remembered at best as a failed experiment, and at worst as an embarrassment.
Similarly, Daniel Day Lewis was the saving grace of “Lincoln”. An otherwise ponderous and over-inflated affair, the film would have sunk beneath its own self-important weight, were it not for its lead’s surprisingly nimble and impish portrayal of our 16th president. I strongly suspect that the Abe Lincoln portrayed by Daniel Day Lewis would have loved Seth MacFarlane’s irreverent turn as Oscar host. Including the joke about John Wilkes Booth.
Maybe especially the joke about John Wilkes Booth.