Over the last few days I’ve been looking back at the best acting performances from the crazy past year. The supporting categories are done and now we move to Lead. We begin by looking at the women who gave an impressive variety of performances to consider. As before, narrowing them down to five was no easy task, but those are the rules. So without further delay here are my top choices for Lead Actress.
Honorable mentions: Elizabeth Moss (“The Invisible Man”), Tamara Lawrance (“Kindred”), Sarah Megan Thomas (“A Call to Spy”), Clare Dunne (“Herself”), Rosamund Pike (“Radioactive”), Julia Garner (“The Assistant”), Bethany Anne Lind (“Blood on Her Name”), Catherine Deneuve (“The Truth”)
#5 – Diane Lane – “Let Him Go”
Not only are too few people talking about “Let Him Go”, but too few people are talking about Diane Lane’s terrific lead performance. She plays a mother who has buried her grief following the loss of her son some years earlier. Lane brings a disarming sincerity to her character but also a quiet intensity that really shows itself when things heat up in the final act. I’m a big fan of “Let Him Go” and Lane is a big reason why.￼￼￼
#4 – ￼Jessie Buckley “I’m Thinking of Ending Things”
I’m guessing it’s a challenge for anyone who stars in a Charlie Kauffman film. This role is particularly tricky and Jessie Buckley is certainly up for the task.￼￼ It’s not like we needed further proof that she was a great actress. But watching her navigate Kaufman’s dense dialogue and unconventional storytelling was pretty mind-blowing￼￼￼￼. It’s hard to say too much without spoiling things, but suffice it to say Buckley’s beguiling performance is crucial in sucking the audience into Kaufman’s offbeat￼ vision.
#3 – Vanessa Kirby – “Pieces of A Woman”
Here is another movie about grief and another absolutely crushing lead performance. This may be the biggest eye-opener of 2020. Vanessa Kirby loses herself in the role of a woman shattered following a devastating loss. She must find a way to pick up the pieces while finding her true self in the process. It’s heavy stuff, but Kirby handles it with sensitivity and brings an authentic emotional weight to every scene. It’s a stunning performance.
#2 – Carey Mulligan – “Promising Young Woman”
Carey Mulligan is one of the most consistent actresses working today. She never gives a bad performance. But her performances show more than just acting chops. They show she possesses an incredible range. Never was that more true than with “Promising Young Woman”, a film that sees Mulligan stretching herself in several different directions and absolutely killing it. It’s a potent, playful, and powerful character who Mulligan perfectly embodies.
#1 – Frances McDormand – “Nomadland”
It’s no surprise when Frances McDormand gives a great performance. It is a surprise when you see what may be the best work of an already standout career. In “Nomadland” McDormand gives the most natural and grounded performances I saw in 2020. She’s so in-tune with the film’s unique real-world rhythm and captures the very essence of the heartfelt story writer-director Chloé Zhao is telling. I was blown away by McDormand and a third Academy Award would be well deserved.
One more category to go. Tomorrow we wrap it up with the Lead Actors. As always, please leave you thoughts in the comments section below.