Sunday, June 26, 2016

2015: Brie Larson for Room

In this profoundly disturbing film, Brie Larson portrays a woman who was abducted as a teenager and has been confined to a small shed ever since. Her 5-year-old son, Jack, was born in this shed and has never left it, and thus believes that nothing is real outside of this small space, which they refer to as Room. She doesn't want to confuse him by attempting to explain the truth, but then she begins to realize that if she's ever going to escape from Room, she's going to need Jack's help.

My immediate reaction upon watching this movie is shock, and not just because of the subject matter. I cannot even fathom how anyone could have considered Spotlight to be a better movie than Room. This was absolutely more deserving of the Best Picture Oscar. Both films told interesting stories, but this had a much better execution in so many ways. However, before I go too far off on a tangent, I'm going to bring this back to Larson's performance; after all, that's why I'm here.

In order to give a deep, thorough analysis of this performance I'd probably need to watch the movie a couple more times, but I don't think I have that in me. It's an unusual Best Actress winning performance because, while she plays one of the two main characters and is in almost every scene, she's not the main focus. The story is mostly from Jack's perspective, and Jacob Tremblay does such a good job of portraying him that it was tempting to just watch him the whole time. Seriously, I think that kid deserved an Oscar. But that's not to say that Larson didn't. If anything, the fact that the story was from his perspective makes her character more difficult to portray. We as the adult audience who live in the outside world understand what's really happened to her, but we need to be able to see her through the eyes of a small child who believes that she is the only other real person to exist. Larson pulls this off spectacularly. She puts on a brave face for her son in order to convince him that their life is normal, and she does it so well that she almost convinces us, yet there are always hints of the pain and suffering she's experienced, just below the surface. It is entirely believable that she has been enduring abuse for many years. Her incredible chemistry with Tremblay further convinces us that the two of them really have lived in Room together for his entire life. It all seems so real.

Now I'm going to get a bit spoiler-y, so if you haven't seen this movie you might want to skip this paragraph. While I was impressed with her performance at the beginning, as the situation was being established, I became even more so as the story progressed. Her increasing desperation as she develops a new escape plan becomes more and more difficult to hide from Jack, and her struggle to explain his role to him without completely freaking out is brilliantly executed. Then when they do escape, she thinks she should be happy, but finds that she is utterly overwhelmed trying to process what happened. Her entire attitude and demeanor is completely different in the second half of the movie, when she no longer has to focus on trying to escape. This shift could have easily been either too dramatic or too subtle, but she makes it very believable.

Basically, Brie Larson completely embodies this complex character. She clearly understands who this woman is and what she's gone through, and she also understands how her son sees her, and thus is able to convey both perspectives to the audience extremely effectively. To me, that's what makes this performance Oscar-worthy.

So far, this is Larson's only Oscar nomination, but she's still pretty young, and if this performance is any indication, it will almost certainly not be her last.

And now I'm finally all caught up! I've been attempting to rank these as I watched them, so I'll probably be posting that list pretty soon. I also plan to continue adding to this every year like I've done with my Best Picture blog, and I might try to tackle another Oscar category or some other movie-watching related blogging project in the near future, so stay tuned for that, loyal readers. All 3 of you. This has been a much more interesting project than watching the Best Picture Winners (I mean, that was pretty interesting, too, but I got really sick of long, depressing war epics by the end). I'm thinking maybe another acting category or a writing category next, but we'll see.

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