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« Good Morning, Charlie! | Main | Blueprints: "Hereditary" »
Friday
Jul062018

C O N S I D E R - Actresses of 2018, First Half of Year

With the year half over, it's time to look back on the first six months and what treasures they brought us. Here are the 18 performances by actresses we treasured most at the movies thus far this year. We've previously shared the biggest hits in multiple categories at the box office and 18 fav performances by male actors. We hope you'll sound off on these and share a few of your own in the comments... and we hope this list serves as a reminder to Oscar and Globe and SAG voters that amazing performances can happy at any time of the year. Why wait til December to start considering your "Best of" ballot? 

Disclaimer: before we begin I should note that there were a few key bits of actressing I have not yet seen that might have factored in like performances from Game Night, The Seagull, or Hearts Beat Loud.

Okay here we go...

6 LEADING ACTRESSES
(Jan 1st - June 30th releases) 

Toni Collette as "Annie" in Hereditary
What can we add to the already robust conversation around her brilliance? The nuanced construction is a marvel: she's giving you a portrait of an artist's idiosyncractic point of view and convictions, an adult child's contemptuous grief and anger about her parents, and, best of all, her own not always pleasant relationship to mothering. She does all of that while peppering in alarming details that prepare you for the climax. And the crescendo of this star turn! Movies are shot out of sequence which makes this performance even more of a wow.

Rachel McAdams as "Esti Kuperman"
and Rachel Weisz as "Ronit Krushka" in Disobedience
McAdams is in fine form as a woman who's repressed her sexuality for years and surprises with sharp glimpses into the woman that could have been or once was in younger form. But Weisz is holding the whole picture together with a complex take on a more self-actualized woman who nevertheless struggles with intimacy and with reconciling the first half of her life (religious) with the second (secular). It's right up there with her work in Constant Gardener and Deep Blue Sea as the holy trinity of her career.

Michelle Pfeiffer as "Kyra" in Where is Kyra?
I had a strange experience with the reviews of this film. I wanted to be happy that Pfeiffer was receiving so many 'revelatory' or 'best of her career!' citations but all I could think was 'has everyone forgotten how brilliant she's been since, oh, 1983?'  Perhaps the long time away from the screen had dulled communal perceptions of her gift? At any rate she's terrific here, fully committed to this despondent portrait of an unemployed divorced woman. Kyra  matters to approximately no one and her whole future empties out when her only tether to stability, her elderly mother, dies near the beginning of the picture. 

Amy Schumer as "Renee Bennett" in I Feel Pretty
This sneakily wise if occassionally conflicted comedy was unfairly dismissed, if you ask me. It had something to say and the role proved a perfect fit for Schumer's often hilarious sexual confidence. As with Trainwreck before it, Schumer's giving an overarching magnetic romcom star turn with amusing physical comedy and character work details.

Charlize Theron as "Marlo" in Tully
"Mommy, what's wrong with your body?" gets one of the biggest laughs in the movie but the emotional truth of this performance suggests a different answer: there is nothing at all wrong with this mommy's body. It's just another tool in Theron's considerable arsenal as she dives deep inside this fascinating woman whose most obvious attribute is the weariness she wears like a heavy extra layer, pulling her posture down as she unflatteringly slumps at the table in her undies. Theron is so excellent as this exhausted mother, yearning for the vitality, freedom, and vast possibilities of her youth, that you can even sense an 'I just thought there would be more' monologue brewing for the character in 15 years (Thanks, Boyhood). That Theron plays all this so specifically (there's no easy scapegoat to what ails Marlo like an Unhappy Marriage or Post Partum Depression that a lesser picture would blame) while remaining funny and spontaneous and never dragging the audience down with Marlo's significant malaise is a true marvel. 

P.S. Why can't Reitman (Director) Cody (Screenwriter) and Theron (Star) work together every single goddamn time? Between this and Young Adult it's clear that they bring out the best in each other's gifts.

 

11 SUPPORTING ACTRESSES

Nadia Alexander as "Melissa Bowman" in Blame
Most micro-indies end up lost in an ocean of other titles in our streaming world but this debut feature from 23 year old writer/director/lead actress Quinn Shephard is worth finding. There could be big careers ahead for many of the actors. Alexander plays Shephards arch-enemy in this merciless look at teenage sexuality, identity-shuffling, abuse and lashing out. Alexander's Melissa reads at first glance like your typical Queen Bee vlllain but Alexander is not phoning it in and the result is a character arc and reveal that's brutally honest and discomfiting.

Mackenzie Davis as "Tully" in Tully
It's no easy feat to play a concept rather than a character but also fill in the contours of a character without losing the purity of the idea of one. (Pfeiffer accomplished this last year in mother! but it's rare). Davis has an intricately lopsided chemistry with Theron, too, which was essential to pull off this complicated take on aging and parenthood. [More about this on the recent podcast.]

Ann Dowd as "Joan" in Hereditary
Sure, her recent two-fer of instantly iconic villains (The Leftovers, Handmaid's Tale) have taught us not to trust her, but nobody in Hereditary feels "safe" exactly so it's no distraction. Joan's initial neediness and happy missionary zeal about group therapy and private seances are about-faces from her recent characters. Is there any role or project that Dowd can't elevate?

Lola Dueñas as" Luciana Piñares de Luenga" in Zama
She's a blast of fresh air -- okay, a slight sticky breeze -- deep in the humidity and discomfort of this challenging film. She plays a decadent official's wife, long since left to her own devices with her slaves and the colonists at large. Dueñas entertains like the delightful ctress she's always been (see her work with Almodovar) while never shying away from this characters troubling self-centered depravity.

Jennifer Garner as "Emily" in Love, Simon
The role is tailor-made to have the audience go goo-goo eyed for her warmth and compassion. But Garner is keyed in enough beyond the big speech, to make you totally believe that Emily, a therapist and suburban mom, has had these thoughts brewing for years about her son but made a conscious decision to bury them, never wanting to make him feel like a patient, but protect his own journey.

Danai Gurira as "Okoye" in Black Panther / Avengers: Infinity War
Fierce, imposing, 100% believable as an Amazon warrior. And even a little funny, too. Her brief appearance in Infinity War sealed this placement, illustrating in one harrowing facial expression to what extent her sense of self is focused on her king's protection.

Anne Hathaway as "Daphne Kluger" in Oceans 8
Sending up narcissistic movie stardom -- her own? -- in a cheeky star turn while also looking like 150 million bucks to justify said narcissism. She's easily the MVP of this laidback heist film when the movie might have been sheer bliss had the other stars fought her more aggressively for that title. 

Gillian Jacobs as "Helen" in Life of the Party
Wonderfully deadpan and instantly cool, despite or because of her embrace of the uncool. 'Coma Girl' steals this sisterhood show if you ask me (with Maya Rudolph not far behind but still being underutilized every time... even in comedies!) 

Alexandra Shipp as "Abby" in Love, Simon
Wonderfully natural and radiating compassion. You totally buy that she'd develop these new friendships which feel like old ones despite being 'the new girl' in a senior year. Her empathy is such that you even believe that she'd warm to the disruptive new presence in the clique despite his forced humor and general obnoxiousness. Best scene: Every beat her face wears during Simon's coming out is a thing of beauty. 

Michelle Williams as "Avery LeClaire" in I Feel Pretty
That baby doll voice is the big comic surprise... but no crutch; she's too good an actor not to fill out what might have been a one-joke role.

Letitia Wright as "Shuri" in Black Panther
What a tonic. While most of the cast is expertly conveying regal authority, she repeatedly punctures the potential stuffiness with refreshing candor, intellectual confidence, and adolescent familiarity -- delightfully bringing out different and lighter shades in Chadwick's otherwise noble-to-a-fault work as her big royal brother.

1 CAMEO OR LIMITED ROLES 

Phoebe Waller-Bridge (voice only) as "L3-37" in Solo: A Star Wars Story
It's tough to imagine this political activist comic character working in the Star Wars films of old -- which favored rather vague REBELLION vs OPRESSION binaries. But the slightly irrevent and modern take is vital new blood for an old franchise. Plus, Waller-Bridge (Fleabag, Crashing) knows from great romantic comic swerving and fun line readings. 

 

P.S. ACK!

I forgot Candice Bergen for Book Club who was meant to be included in the Supporting Actress section. (And, note:  I'm not even usually a Bergen fan but just loved her goofy self-deprecating commitment in that - particularly once she started dating) . But in the interest of not rudely cancelling somehow already honored above, I shan't adjust the list since this is only a fun list to serve as a reminder when we draw up year-end honors that performances and films from the year's first half do exist!

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Reader Comments (34)

Thank you for (each and every one of) your C O N S I D E R posts, which immediately bring to mind Melissa Leo’s infamously—and irresistibly—gonzo F.Y.C. ads, circa 2011. God, those were delicious.

July 6, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterMareko

Are you really so down on A Quiet Place that you don't even consider Emily Blunt and Millicent Simmonds to be contenders? I'm not such of a fan of the movie myself, but their perfomances were sensational.

Also please try to catch Summer 1993. Laia Artigas, Paula Robles and Bruna Cusi are all sensational.

July 6, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterken s.

You must see Charlotte Rampling in Hannah! Major, major, major FYC!

Winner: Charlotte Rampling, HANNAH
Runner-up: Juliette Binoche, LET THE SUNSHINE IN
Michelle Pfeiffer, WHERE IS KYRA?
Isabelle Huppert & Kim Min-hee, CLAIRE’S CAMERA

Supporting
Winner: Anne Hathaway, OCEAN’S 8
Runner-up: Myriam Boyer, DOUBLE LOVER
Letitia Wright, BLACK PANTHER
Ann Dowd, HEREDITARY

July 6, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterRoger

Ken -- i liked a quiet place. a good B picture. Emily Blunt was ended up in 19th when i went to draw this up.... and as far as "contenders" go, Emily is very much in the game as far as first half performances go but this is personal preference 'won't you consider...? ' lists

July 6, 2018 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

I'd add Natalie Portman and Jennifer Jason Leigh to this list—both were doing weird, good things in Annihilation.

July 6, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterHayden

I don't believe people are not considering Andie MacDowell in "LOVE AFTER LOVE" - she's magnificent! Really!!!
.
My FYC pf 2018 first half of the year:
BEST ACTRESS
- Juliette Binoche, "Let the Sunshine In"
- Emily Blunt, "A Quiet Place"
- Toni Collette, "Hereditary"
- Andie MacDowell, "Love After Love"
- Michelle Pfeiffer, "Where Is Kyra?"
- Rachel Weisz, "Disobedience"
.
BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
- Mackenzie Davis, "Tully"
- Rachel McAdams, "Disobedience"
- Millicent Simmons, "A Quiet Place"
- Letitia Wright, "Black Panther"

July 6, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterEd

I'm surprised you didn't mention Millicent Simmonds in A Quiet Place - my vote for the best performance of the year so far.

July 6, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterConMan

I'm with you in regards to Theron and Davis in Tully.
Damn they were so good!

Your other choices not so much.

I have a crush on Shipp, but I didn't think she was anything special in Love, Simon
- her turn in Tragedy Girls on the other hand! - and to a lesser extent: Dude.

-Collette was good, and had many powerful moments -
but there were a few instances of "hey, look at me, ya'll, I'm ACTING!! - this will be the bit they use for my Oscar clip!" which took me out of the movie.

July 6, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterUlrich

BLESS YOU for the shout-out to Phoebe Waller-Bridge. I loved L3-37 so much.

While I agree that Maya Rudolph is sadly under-utilized, she totally stole Life of the Party for me. Jacobs was great, too, but no one makes me cackle like Rudolph. The scene in the restaurant ALONE.

PLEASE let Reitman, Cody, and Theron do every film together from now until the end of time, forever and ever, amen.

July 6, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterDancin' Dan

Love the list! Really wish some of the women from Annihilation had made it. Such a strangely beautiful movie.

July 6, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterPoliVamp

polivamp... i liked Annihilation quite a bit but for me the acting wasn't the selling point.

July 6, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterNATHANIEL R

LEADING:
Emily Blunt - "A Quiet Place"
Marine Vacth - "Double Lover"
Natalie Portman - "Annihilation"

SUPPORTING:
Danai Gurira - "Black Panther"
Selma Blair - "Mom and Dad"

July 6, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterAmurabi Mendez

Toni Collette is the best performance of the year so far, including all male performances.
Charlize Theron is right behind.

Love the inclusion of Jennifer Garner.

Surprised not to see Emily Blunt and Millicent Simmonds on the list.

It's too bad that you didn't watch The Seagull. Elisabeth Moss gives such a great performance, along with Bening and Ronan.

I thought Amanda Seyfried would be mentioned too.
And I loved Rachel McAdams in Game Night. A great year for her already!

July 6, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterRod

And none of these will be nominated. Most of these films and performances just do not have the heat/energy to survive until nomination morning.

July 6, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJamie

TEAM TONI! MY GOD.

July 6, 2018 | Unregistered Commentermikenewq

Great choices and writes-up as usual, Nathaniel.

Rachel McAdams is on a roll with her dramatic turn in Disobedience and charming comedic one in Game Night. The latter is a hoot. Sharon Horgan who plays a smart brit is a hilarious contrast to dizzy Billy Magnussen.

Ann Dowd does elevate whatever movie she's in, doesn't she? I root for her character in American Animals so bad I want to punch Evan Peters in the face.

Condola Rashad makes what could've been a stock role of supporting wife into something more in Come Sunday.

Mary Steenburgen's warmth presence in Book Club melts my heart. That tap dance scene.

And I cherish Jennifer Lawrence's STAR power and commitment in Red Sparrow.

July 6, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJija

^Yeah, Jennifer Lawrence was fucking GREAT in Red Sparrow -
the first truly adult performance she's given.
Not a fan of her earlier performances,
but she's really something in Red Sparrow.

July 6, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterUlrich

I was kind of surprised no one saw Beast, but then again it was in theaters for two seconds. It was a really strong debut with an interesting ending/non-ending, twist/non-twist and it featured an incredible, thorough, deep, compelling star turn from Jessie Buckley, who I hadn't heard of before. What a surprise! I highly recommend.

Also, very very with you on Rachel Weisz and can't wait to see Anne in Ocean's 8.

July 6, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterDavid S.

Although, I don't believe in recognizing voice-over work with live action performances, Tilda Swinton deserves to be included here for her work in Isle of Dogs.

July 6, 2018 | Unregistered Commenter/3rtful

LEADING:

Laura Dern - The Tale: Still not accepting this as a TV movie and this incredible performance deserves all the attention it can get.

Anya Taylor Joy/Olivia Cooke - Thoroughbreds

Rachel McAdams - Game Night: I have the "Oh no! He died" gif saved to my phone

Stacy Martin - Godard Mon Amour

Emily Blunt - A Quiet Place

Isabel Zuaa - Good Manners : Strong performance in first half, changes to a very different, but equally strong performance in the second half.

Jennifer Lawrence - Red Sparrow

SUPPORTING

Elizabeth Debicki - The Tale: "You can't" is the line delivery of the year for me so far.

Michelle Williams - I Feel Pretty

Anne Hathaway - Oceans 8

Marjorie Estiano - Good Manners

Alexandra Shipp - Love Simon - COSIGN everything said

Chloe Sevigny - Lean On Pete

Sally Hawkins - Paddington 2

Zoe Saldana - Avengers: Infinity War: A nice surprise for me. She reaalllly sells the big moments

July 6, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterchasm301

It’s a small role but Andrea Riseborough is terrific in Death of Stalin

July 6, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterVito

Great write-up on Garner!
And awesome in general.

July 6, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJames T

I have to see a number of these (Where Is Kyra? is sitting across from me as I type), but one performance that really surprised me is Lucy Liu in Set It Up, that Netflix romcom that people are excited about. The movie is kind of a trifle, but it's worth watching for her.

Also, I loved Maya Rudolph in Life of the Party.

Both Rudolph and Liu deserve better material.

July 6, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne

The only possible one would be Collette. And I do not even think this will happen unless it turns out to be a weak year in this category.

July 6, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterRdf

I haven't seen many of these because they haven't played here yet, but I must say I had the polar opposite response to Gillian Jacobs in LIFE OF THE PARTY. I had no idea what she was doing most of the time. I liked her much more in the lead of IBIZA (which has a few supporting performances that are also quite great).

July 6, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterGlenn Dunks

^And Gillian Jacobs was even better in Love!
She's always a pleasure to watch on screen, no matter the size of the screen.

July 7, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterUlrich

re: Leading Actresses

Six (Colette, McAdams, Weisz, Theron, Schumer, Pfeiffer) are cited but seven is mentioned under the heading. Is one missing?

July 7, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterArkaan

The most memorable Gillian Jacobs performance of 2017 was in that dumb diet coke ad that plays before every movie at AMC.

July 7, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterchasm301

Just to point out to @JIJA that Horgan is playing Irish not British in 'Game Night'

July 7, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterEoghan McQ

Arkaan -- oh good catch. twas an earlier draft.

July 7, 2018 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

I think Danai Gurira was the breakout star of Black Panther, which was very much punctuated by his scene stealing turn in Avengers Infinity War. Leticia Wright was terrific as a comic relief character. But Gurira managed to be both comic relief and a dramatic and physical force. I think people were a bit slow to credit Gurira (maybe because her looks....bald, strong featured black woman....make her an unconventional bet for stardom compared to the cutesy teen looking Wright,), but I think she's going to be a big star and may be a leading lady.

It's a bit odd that Lupita N'yongo seems to be the main benificiary of Black Panther's success (she's bee cast in so many big projects since), because she gave the least interesting performance of the female characters. Guess the industry is making up for giving her scraps after her Oscar. But really, it"d Gurira who should be getting these opportunities. She has the chops to be a quippy action star (I think Danai would be much better casting for the new Charlies Angels than Lupita).

July 8, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterhotep

Love this list. Can't wait to see Kyra and Blame!
But the Oscar must still go to Glenn Close. Period.

July 8, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterSTFU

Love the inclusion of Garner and Shipp. They made those roles so natural. And if you've read the book, Shipp completely nailed the transition from page to screen.

On the same note, I'd say the true secret weapon of Love, Simon should be considered for Limited/Cameo recognition: Natasha Rothwell. She injected so much more than humor and sass into her final scene in the cafeteria, she nearly stole the damn movie.

July 8, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterMSP

MSP -- oh yeah! She was great in that.

July 8, 2018 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

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