Monday, January 4, 2016

Top 15 Supporting Female Performances of 2015

Now that I've given my list of the top 15 lead female performances of 2015, I figured I'd shine a light on the ladies that did more with less. Here is my list of the top 15 supporting female performances of the year.

15. Katherine Waterston as Chrisann in Steve Jobs: While a lot of the actors in Steve Jobs are acting through Aaron Sorkin's snappy dialogue, Katherine Waterston does most of her acting through her eyes. The eyes of her Chrisann, that are both fiery and in panic, would make Waterston's own hypnotic Shasta Fey in Inherent Vice run for the flipping hills.

14. Julie Walters as Miss Kehoe in Brooklyn: As I sing my praises about Brooklyn and how humorous it is, a good chunk of the humor comes from Julie Walters who owns every ounce of screen time she has with her colorful and acerbic line delivery. Even if she isn't on screen much, she always left me wanting more.

13. Brie Larson as Kim in Trainwreck: Brie Larson had a pretty solid year. She became a force of nature in Room and earlier in the year, she served as a comedic foil in Trainwreck. But as Kim, Larson has to exude several layers: being the comedic "straight man," the supportive sister, and the stern yet wise wife and mother.

12. Tilda Swinton as Dianna in Trainwreck: Here is one phrase we don't normally get to use: Tilda Swinton: sardonic comedienne. After slaying 2014 with three very different performances, she owns even more scenery as the main character's crass boss while getting all tanned and wigged up. Is there no end to your slayage, Ms. Swinton?

11. Phyllis Smith as Sadness in Inside Out: Sadness is a perfect foil to Joy: always mopey to the point where the always sunny Joy feels as if Sadness is dragging her down. But as the film progresses, Phyllis Smith showcases the importance of Sadness through subtle inflictions in her voice like when Sadness comforts Riley's former imaginary friend Bing Bong as he gets upset when recalling happy memories with Riley and Smith's voice gets lighter and less somber. Sadness may have a rain cloud over her head, but she'll still let the sun shine.

10. Joan Allen as Grandma in Room: As Ma and Jack become adjusted to the real world, it is up to Allen's Grandma to help them adjust through grace and warmth. Allen is the kind of actress that does more with less, exuding a quiet strength to command your attention. But here, Allen does more with literally less. In particular, in her big scene where she exudes years of backstory and having to cope without her daughter living in her nest. Such a relief to have you back on screen, Joan!

9. Elizabeth Banks as Melinda in Love and Mercy: While we've seen the struggling wife or girlfriend of the tortured genius/artist role many times, as the wife of Beach Boys frontman Brian Wilson, Elizabeth Banks plays the role with such refreshing authenticity and avoids veering towards martyrdom or giving her a steely reserve. Simply, playing her as just a person. In fact, because her performance is so luminous and determined, while I was watching the film, I was thinking, "God only knows where he'd be without her?"

8. Rebecca Ferguson as Ilsa Faust in Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation: While I went in to be amazed by Tom Cruise as I was, it was ultimately Rebecca Ferguson who walked away with the film. As Ilsa Faust, Rebecca Ferguson is so magnetic, so in control, so sheek, and so ferocious, that she makes you wish Faust had her own movie. If that happened, I'd be first in line to buy a ticket!

7. Deanna Dunagan as Grandma in The Visit: One of the scariest performances of the year if not THE scariest. One thing that is genius about Dunagan's portrayal is that while she does send chills during the night scenes where she goes crazy and unhinged, she is even scarier in the scenes where she is being interviewed and is much more calm yet still slowly loses it. All while keeping still and sitting in a chair. I've seen this movie back in September, but this performance still has my bones shaking.

6. Kristen Stewart as Valentine in Clouds of Sils Maria: After suffering through the rather dismal Twilight films, it was such a relief to see Kristen Stewart go back to her indie roots with her career-best work in Clouds of Sils Maria. She gets to hold her own against veteran Juliette Binoche while helping craft one of the finest on-screen duos of 2015 thanks to their chemistry. Her Valentine was so lively and in the moment that any actor or person would be lucky to have her as their assistant.

5. Tessa Thompson as Bianca in Creed: While Tessa Thompson is given the "Adrian" girlfriend role, what makes Thompson's work completely different is how she is much spunkier and more in the moment. Even as her character succumbs to a physical disability, she still has the mentality of "Might as well do what I love while I can" and that makes her performance so endearing. Extra points for her entrancing singing voice which certainly has a "Grip" on you.

4. Rachel McAdams as Sacha Pfeiffer in Spotlight: Amongst her fellow co-stars, to me, what made McAdams' understated work really stand out is how I not only feel that I could know someone like her character, but that I was her. With how she nervously jots down and scrambles her notes and asks questions in an unjudgmental manner, it brought back memories of when I was interviewing people for journalism class. In a sea full of sympathetic characters, her Sacha was one of the most sympathetic.

3. Jennifer Jason Leigh as Lisa in Anomalisa: From her very first scene, where we get to hear Lisa's sunny voice, I was immediately hooked and understood why the main character of Michael would fall so deeply in love with her. Even in the scene where she sings "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun," there is still a sweetness in her voice as it becomes tragic. Leigh's layered revelatory work is something to behold and deserves to be ranked among the likes of Ellen DeGeneres and Scarlett Johansson.

2. Alicia Vikander as Ava in Ex Machina: Vikander's Ava is her crowning achievement of 2015. Ava is a very difficult character to pull off. Hold too much back, she's literally robotic. But if you give too much about her away, it takes away from the ambiguity of her character. Thanks to Vikander's rather analytical work, she is able to handle that tricky balance of being a robot that may or may not be the bigger brains of the main trio, possibly toying with the men vying for her attention. Vikander is able to capture such ambiguity through shifts in her eyes and facial movements. She'll go from showing wondrous optimism to haunting reclusiveness within seconds. A masterful performance that is the cherry on top of an amazing year for this bright, young star.

1. Rose Byrne as Rayna Boyanov in Spy: I am REALLY loving this new comedic chapter in Rose Byrne's career. First, she plays the unsung hero of Bridesmaids, then the hip mother with sex appeal in Neighbors, and now another colorful character with the sinister yet spoiled heiress Rayna Boyanov in Spy. Whether Byrne casually gives a funny quip ("Ever since I saw you in that abortion of a dress"), throws a giant hissy fit, or rocks the beehive hairdo like it's nobody's business, Byrne inhales every scene she is in. What's even more impressive is how better the performance gets upon repreat viewings.

So that's my list of the top 15 supporting female performances of 2015. I'd love to see which supporting ladies you guys thought were the best. So please feel free to write your thoughts in the comments section. Thanks for reading!

Also, you can check out my list of the top 15 female lead performances of 2015 here.