We’ve had some amazing supporting performances from some incredibly talented men and women. Now we move into the lead performance categories and let me say there were a lot to choose from. As I mulled over my options for the top lead actress performances, I had forgotten how many strong female lead performances there were in 2012. So many of them stood out and stuck with me. That’s one reason it was so difficult to leave some off this list. But that’s the nature of Top 5 lists, right? Ok, enough babbling. Here are the Top 5 Lead Actress Performances (according to me)…
5 – EMILY BLUNT (“Salmon Fishing in the Yemen”)
I’m on record as being a big, big Emily Blunt fan. Well, this is one example why. Once you get past its goofy title “Salmon Fishing in the Yemen” has a lot to offer. One of the highlights is Blunt’s delightful performance. She plays opposite Ewen McGregor and the two have a very different but enjoyable chemistry. Blunt is charming and witty and she brings her signature playfulness to this character that I love. But Blunt does a lot more than just smile and giggle. She has some really heartfelt scenes that I think give the movie its punch. The Golden Globes surprised people by giving her a nomination for her work. For me it was a very pleasant surprise.
#4 – RACHEL WEISZ – (“The Deep Blue Sea”)
Rachel Weisz has come a long way since I first saw her in “The Mummy”. Since then she has stretched out her talent to reveal some serious acting chops. She showed it again in this year’s underappreciated “The Deep Blue Sea“. In this layered British drama from Terence Davies, she plays a character trapped by her own poor decision. Her desire for passion muddies her vision of true love and Weisz takes us through all the conflicting emotions and subsequent heartbreak that this fragile woman endures. It’s a powerful and complex role that only works because of Weisz’s brilliance.
#3 – NAOMI WATTS – (“The Impossible”)
Naomi Watts is another one of those actresses that gets a lot of praise but yet I was never fully convinced of her work. That has changed and I now see she is a tremendous actress. You can see that clearly by her strong work in “The Impossible“. This is one of the most believable and captivating performances of 2012. Her ability to convey a mother’s love for her family is amazing but watching her sell both the physical and emotional pain her character is enduring is acting at its finest. Talk about giving everything to a performance! Watts nails it.
#2 – JESSICA CHASTAIN – (“Zero Dark Thirty”)
2011 was a fantastic year for Jessica Chastain. She was featured in two of my favorite movies of the year, “The Tree of Life” and “Take Shelter”. But 2012 saw her soar even higher with an incredible lead performance in “Zero Dark Thirty“. She plays a tough and determined CIA operative heading the search for Osama bin Laden. Watching Chastain take her character through the highs and lows of the search is a delight. She gives us a character who is hard-nosed and aggressive yet we also see her emotionally laboring under the burden of her mission. Chastain channels all of this brilliantly while establishing herself as a bonafide superstar.
#1 – QUVENZHANE WALLIS – (“Beasts of the Southern Wild”)
I just smile when I think of Quvenzhane Wallis and her performance in “Beasts of the Southern Wild“. This amazing newcomer was only 5 years old when she auditioned for the part and 6 years old during filming. That alone is stunning especially after seeing the beautiful work she did. This is a sweet but heartbreaking role and it’s impossible to not be deeply moved by what you see. Wallis navigates through this weighty material with a grounded authenticity and a skill that makes you think she’s a professional. Hats off to the Academy for giving this young star the recognition she deserves.
So where did I get it right and where was I wrong. Share your thoughts as well as your favorite lead actress performances. Tomorrow I wrap it up with the Top 5 Lead Actor Performances of 2012.