Today I’m continuing my look at 2014’s best performances. I’ve been looking at each of the four major acting categories and today it’s time for the lead actresses. Last year gave us a host of great lead actress performances spanning numerous genres. The awards circuits have embraced a number of popular picks, but I assure you that my list will feature others that deserve equal attention. So here we go:
#5 – Essie Davis (“The Babadook”)
You’ll have a hard time finding a more heart-wrenching performance than the one we get from Australian actress Essie Davis in “The Babadook”. This gem of a horror film uses its smarts by dabbling in the psychological. Davis shows us a worn-down single mother who desperately loves her troubled son. But the movie shifts and Davis gives us one of the most startling portrayals of a mental breakdown you will see. It’s such a committed and convincing performance that pulls in our sympathies while also completely unsettling us.
#4 – Amy Adams (“Big Eyes”)
Over the years Amy Adams has shown herself to be a tremendous actress. So it shouldn’t surprise anyone to hear that she gives one of 2014’s best performances. Playing the popular American painter Margaret Keane, Adams delivers a quiet and unassuming performance that generates a sympathetic and believable image. She falls beautifully into director Tim Burton’s bright and colorful 1950s world, yet she conveys the timidity of someone who doesn’t quite fit in. This is fine work from Adams.
#3 – Lisa Loven Kongsli (“Force Majeure”)
“Force Majeure” was a movie that slipped up on me. I knew nothing about it, but it became one of my favorite films of the year. The performance from lead actress Lisa Loven Kongsli is a big reason it works so well. She plays a wife and mother in a seemingly happy family, but events over a five day vacation reveals deep cracks in her relationship with her husband. Kongsli blew me away portraying a woman running the gamut of emotions. She’s brilliant from the quiet moments where her expressions tell her story to the bigger moments where she pours out her emotions.
#2 – Rosamund Pike (“Gone Girl”)
One performance that has earned the most buzz from critics and movie fans alike came from Rosamund Pike. The performance is from David Fincher’s “Gone Girl” and Pike shows a side of her that none of us have seen before. Here she dives headfirst into one of the most twisted and complex characters of the year. She’s tough, conniving, and frighteningly unpredictable. Pike brings out every one of these traits with unbridled voracity. Pike is stunningly beautiful but that almost serves as a camouflage for her character’s deeper and more complicated layers. Pike is sensational.
#1 -Marion Cotillard (” The Immigrant”)
I am always amazed by the consistency shown by Marion Cotillard. She is one of those rare actresses who simply never gives a bad performance. Even more, often times her work leaves me speechless. She did it again in 2014. In “The Immigrant” she once again strips off anything artificial and gives us a vulnerable but surprisingly strong character. Cotillard brings out all of the fears and uncertainties weighing down her character, but she also shows a desperate survivalist side that leads her to fight for her and her sister. We never doubt any characteristic or emotion shown by Cotillard. It’s all channeled through her performance with absolute precision.