2015 was a great year for female performances. Trying to make this list was incredibly difficult for me, but I am fairly satisfied with my top 10. Think I missed out on any? Leave me some feedback, I'm always interested in what my fans (and all you other people who read my posts) have to say. Anyway, here is my list.
10. Charlize Theron - Mad Max: Fury Road
Okay, at this point it's kind of beating a dead horse, but in case you've been living under a rock for the past 8 months, the new Mad Max movie was really cool. And one of the big reasons is because of this awesome performance. Carrying the emotional weight of the movie as well as proving that badass female characters in film don't have to be depicted as overly-masculine caricatures, Theron is both powerful and vulnerable and a highlight of the film.
9. Alicia Vikander - Ex Machina
Definitely one of the more challenging movies of the year, and the single aspect that brings it all together is this mysterious and complex performance. Vikander (who seems to have just sprung out of the ground all of a sudden) tackles this difficult role, leaving you deliberating the complexities of her performance long after the movie is over.
8. Cynthia Nixon - James White
James White is a deeply emotional and painful movie, and that is due in no small part to Nixon's exceptional performance. Her chemistry with Christopher Abbott is so genuine, it's not hard to believe that they are mother and son. This was a performance-based movie that relied very heavily on Nixon, and she delivers in every way. Vulnerable and tragic, I wish she were more recognized for this fantastic work.
7. Rinko Kikuchi - Kumiko, The Treasure Hunter
Perhaps most known for her mostly-silent performance in Babel, Kikuchi breaks no new ground here, as she gives another deeply emotional and subdued performance, but this time with a slightly comedic edge to it that helps it stand apart. This is a very innocent and fun movie that perfectly balances tragic elements to make it a wholly enjoyable experience. And that is almost entirely due to the effectiveness of Kikuchi's terrific performance.
6. Deanna Dunagan - The Visit
I can almost hear people saying "...what?" to this pick already. But I don't care. Dunagan gave a one-note perfomance, I understand that. But she was absolutely what the movie needed, and I couldn't see anyone else matching the crazy she brought to the table here in as fun and horrifying ways as she did. One of the least subtle performances of the year but easily one of the most memorable.
5. Elisabeth Moss - Queen Of Earth
And while #6 was terrifying in a more conventional sense, this one is among the scariest performances of the year just by how insane and emotionally fragile she is. Watching Moss in this film is a lot like watching a bomb as it clicks down to explosion, only if you can't see the timer and have no idea when its going to go off. Not a fun watch (I didn't even like the movie), but a hard one to shake, and that's entirely because of this performance.
4. Saoirse Ronan - Brooklyn
Generally speaking, performances this subdued and mature are something only the most experienced performers can muster up. But not in this case, as the exceedingly talented Ronan absolutely nails the complexities of her character and displays nothing but genuine emotion from beginning to end. This would have been an easy movie to mess up if anyone else were in the lead role, but thanks almost entirely to her, this movie stands as one of the best of the year. Very nicely done.
3. Charlotte Rampling - 45 Years
Now, when it,comes to the most reserved performances of the year, Ronan really impressed me for her age (though, objectively, she was still terrific), but Rampling stands out to me as a seasoned veteran with an arsenal of subtle emotions on display. Every aspect of this performance is devastatingly simple yet powerful, as she doesn't ever need to dramatically overdo anything in the movie. Just a small, tragic performance reliant displaying her impressive ability to evoke emotion through simple facial expressions and the smallest gestures.
2. Cate Blanchett - Carol
If I were to name the greatest actresses, living or dead, Meryl Streep would have to go down as #1, because duh. But the #2 spot would possibly have to go to Blanchett, and this movie is strong evidence as to why. Blanchett is one of those performers who has such a powerful screen presence, it becomes virtually impossible for me to notice anything else while she's on screen. Carrying the dramatic thrust of the movie, I found her compelling, complex, and absolutely magnetic. I hear a lot of people say Rooney Mara was the highlight of this movie, but I don't see why. Blanchett had me totally drawn in to the point where I couldn't see what made Mara stand out to anyone. However, as great as Blanchett was (and is, in general), not even her fantastic work here could stand up to...
1. Brie Larson - Room
My oh my was this an incredible performance. The movie as a whole was fantastic, Jacob Tremblay (rather impressively) was able to hold his own here, but the anchor of this movie was Larson. Possibly the most powerful female performance of the decade, Larson displays a plethora of complex emotions, all the while subtly giving the audience a look into a life they could never even possibly fathom. There's a strength to her role not found in most films, but even she has a breaking point, and whe she does break, waching her spiral is heartbreaking. This is a unique and unforgettable movie with one of the best performances I've seen in years, and if she somehow doesn't win an Oscar for this, I will be truly shocked. After Short Term 12, I was wondering if she would be able to match that fantastic performance, and, well...yeah, somehow she did that. Quickly becoming one of the most promising actresses in Hollywood, I can only hope she doesn't fall down the mainstream drain like so many before her have done. I'm crossing my fingers she doesn't.