Realistic depictions of depression and PTSD that will likely go unappreciated.
Who Should Win: Melissa McCarthy, “Can You Ever Forgive Me”
Although she’s most well-known for her comedies, Melissa McCarthy has fantastic range. Most notably, she’s already been nominated for an Academy Award for her role in “Bridesmaids,” in addition to her numerous Critics’ Choice Awards in various roles.
“Can You Ever Forgive Me” may be McCarthy’s first high-profile drama, but it’s hardly uncharted territory for her. In the movie, McCarthy plays Lee Israel, a biographer struggling with writer’s block in the late ‘80s. It certainly doesn’t help that, at the time, public interest in Israel’s particular brand of biography is low, while the appetite for Tom Clancy (played by Kevin Carolan in a hilarious guest appearance) is high. To make ends meet, Israel imitates the style of deceased writers, forging literary letters for unassuming buyers. As it turns out, she’s very good at it, and the movie implies that many literary letters in circulation right now may actually be Israel forgeries.
But it’s McCarthy’s portrayal of the alcoholic, depressed, writer’s-block-suffering Israel that is the heart of the film. In her more miserable moments, McCarthy is brutally believable. In better times, McCarthy’s skills as an improv comedian bring levity to her character that supports her uncompromisingly honest persona. While Israel is certainly not someone to cross, she definitely seems like a good enough person to engage with for a few minutes, or even an evening.
McCarthy is up against some serious competition, but of all the nominees for Best Actress, none delivered so real a performance as the comedienne-turned-dramatic-actor.
Who Got Snubbed: Rosamund Pike, “A Private War”
Similar to “Can You Ever Forgive Me,” “A Private War” is a biopic about war correspondent Marie Colvin. The movie follows Colvin during her time in various warzones following 9/11, including locations in Sri Lanka, Iraq, and Syria.
Rosamund Pike plays the sassy reporter, Colvin, who is as sympathetic to her subjects as she is disrespectful to anyone who gets in her way. Even before the events of the movie set plot into motion, she’s busy pushing away those nearest to her with her abrasive personality. All the while, she’s able to convince dictators and revolutionaries to spill their life stories.
The titular “private war” however, has little to do with Colvin’s interactions with others. Instead, the movie explores PTSD, and the effect it has on non-combatants. Director Matthew Heineman certainly deserves some credit for his portrayal of PTSD as something permeating Colvin’s entire existence, popping out of nowhere, at times almost surreal. Of course, Pike reacts accordingly, delivering convincing abject terror after nightmares that could just as easily have been flashbacks, or not have happened at all. Every time Colvin has a mental break, it’s both surreal and yet very real.
Clearly, the title refers not only to Colvin’s tendency to go off the beaten path to get her stories, but also to the toll her career has on her as a person.
There aren’t many movies that tackle PTSD for non-combatants, and even fewer that do it well. This year, a film managed to do just that, and yet was entirely ignored by the Academy.
Other Notable Snubs: Joanna Kulig, “Cold War;” Natalie Portman, “Annihilation;” Toni Collette, “Hereditary.”