Eric here, with a plea for Emmy consideration for a dark horse candidate for Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy: Amy Landecker for Amazon’s Transparent.
Transparent is generous to all of its actors because it gives them dramatically complicated landscapes to play in with dialogue that doesn't always fill in those gaps for emotional transitions and arcs. It's the kind of hard work actors love to do. This is, of course, how we all make realizations in “real life” so the actors in Transparent are key to the delicate naturalism of the show, and the creative team behind them have the grace and intelligence to capture the work without exploiting their vulnerability.
Amy Landecker, who plays the eldest sibling Sarah, does wonders with an extraordinarily difficult character. In season one, Sarah leaves her husband Len for another woman (Tammy) in a sex-obsessed haze and a rebellion against her controlled, “perfect” existence. But in the first episode of season two, under Emmy consideration this year, Sarah realizes that not only can she not go through with the wedding to Tammy, not only does she not love Tammy, in fact she HATES Tammy, and that all of her decisions have been wrong.
The idea of realizing on your wedding day that you’ve made the wrong decision is a decades-old entertainment cliché, usually reserved for romantic comedies. But Landecker has to carry the naturalistic weight of what that epiphany REALLY means. This sense of loss, and of being lost, is her arc throughout season two, and the actress finds layers of anger, humor, and fear that are quite astonishing. Sarah may be a control freak, but she is constantly on the verge of falling apart. After spending her lifetime building the ideal family, season two finds her completely alone. Landecker’s natural appeal clues you into the fact that Sarah has always been popular and successful, and for the first time in her life she has driven full-force into a wall. She has no resources for being lonely. Landecker calibrates Sarah’s unraveling in the way we see it in people we know: bursts of anger, momentarily losses of control, casual cruelties to others she sees as weaker and less witty than herself.
It’s also unerring to see such a sexually frank portrayal of a middle-aged mother in any medium. Sarah not only talks about sex, she makes life decisions based on sex (as, of course, most people do). She’s extra proud of her boobs (the character is costumed with subtle attention to them) and leads with sexual confidence. Landecker is also smart enough to show us Sarah's spoiled streak - she comes from a family with money, and she’s accustomed to attention and accommodation, and she’s lost without those things, too. This is a fully fleshed-out character, etched by an actress in masterful control. She makes many actresses getting nominated for sitcom work seem juvenile in comparison.
Previous Emmy Pieces
Emmy Drama Ballots | Emmy Comedy Ballots | Donna Lynn Champlin "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend" | Girls | The People vs OJ Simpson | Gillian Jacobs "Love" | Riley Keough "The Girlfriend Experience" | Jeremy Allen White "Shameless" | Constance Zimmer "UnREAL" | Noah Galvin "The Real O'Neals" | "Mr Robot" leads TCA Nominations | Ten Nominees?