We are closing to the ends of the lists now, and therefore the three we really care about. Who was the best actress, actor and movie of the year? These are movies debated with fierce enthusiasm. Please, with this list, bear in mind in the UK, films like Three Billboard Outside of Ebbing, Missouri and Lady Bird come out in 2018 not last year, so if Saorise Ronan or Frances McDormand are missing from this list, it is not a slight to their performances. I haven’t seen them, but I cannot wait to. So who did make the list for 2017? Let’s dive in and find out.
5 – GAL GADOT – WONDER WOMAN
I was debating for a long time about including Gal Gadot on this list. Yes, Wonder Woman was incredible and yes, there was nothing wrong with Gadot as a performer, but I couldn’t help but ponder whether it was ‘Best Actress’ quality. Gal Gadot was a hero without an emotionally resonant back story. There was a refined simplicity to the character, which is what the feminist movement needed. Gadot breaking down into a teary monologue about the loss of Chris Pine would have been extraordinary for the actress, but would have stopped Wonder Woman from being that strong, independent role model for female superhero fans out there. So, in that regard, Patty Jenkins and Gal Gadot kept their hero deservedly straight-forward: a girl who could save the world just as well as the men.
But as the year progressed, as the supporting actress category last week proved, there weren’t too many female performances blowing me away. There were a few contenders to the fifth spot: Brie Larson, Zoe Kazan, Isabelle Huppert… but I couldn’t help but get drawn back to the resonance of Gal Gadot. People were still talking about how she changed the superhero game. In Justice League, she was the saving grace of that ropey blockbuster. She is the face of female superheroes everywhere and with Marvel’s 2017 offerings being light and breezy, perhaps Gadot owns the best superhero blockbuster of the year. And for such an impressive role model, that has been the source of more debates that anyone else on this list, I think that deserves a placing spot on the Best Actress list.
4 – EMMA STONE – BATTLE OF THE SEXES
Emma Stone was another actress who should probably have been higher. She portrayed Billie Jean King, the female tennis player who, in many ways, was the Wonder Woman of that decade. She is the reason while tennis is probably one of the most gender equal sports out there, catching on far earlier than many other competitive sports. And Emma Stone was a great actress to play her, with her glistening deep eyes and charismatic personality. As she toys with the idea of having a lesbian lover or wrestles with the weight on her shoulder as she takes on Steve Carrell’s Bobby Riggs, Stone gives it her all, delivering a remarkable performance.
But was it remarkable? That was the issue. Billie Jean King wasn’t a showswoman. She was just a girl who loved tennis and was fed up of misogyny in the sport. While Steve Carrell is gifted with a character who literally fills the screen at every given moment, Emma Stone is given a character who tries to avoid the spotlight. So, while there is this remarkable story, Stone’s performance is purposefully restrained, a woman who is saving the world of sport and flashes a polite smile. It is only really in the tiny moments, a breakdown in the locker room, where the real power of the actress is put on show. However, it is still a wonderful achievement from Stone, a truthful, commanding turn as a sporting hero.
3 – AHN SEO-HYUN – OKJA
2017 has really been a good year for child actors. As these lists went online, I sort of wished the child actors had their own Top Five article. It would have been a damn sight easier to compile than most of them, with a strong selection of movies in the mix. The Florida Project, It, Goodbye Christopher Robin… hundreds of child actors have blown me away this year. But top of the list is easily Ahn Seo-hyun for Okja. She anchors a strong movie, blowing us away with the sheer magnitude of her acting abilities. At such a young age, she totally gets across this reluctant hero figure, condemning of the way the world works, wonderfully stubborn when it comes to assumed authority figures and able to handle the emotional side a lot. It is hard to ignore a moral message when there is a wonderful child performance at the heart of it. Superb work.
2 – GARANCE MARILLIER – RAW
There is something so brilliant about French acting. Perhaps it is the casual nature of the language. The French are very laidback in their personalities and speech. It gives French films like Elle and Raw a really natural and honest attitude. You totally believe the reality of what is happening, which makes the events of the movie all the more hard-hitting: because they are happening to people you could easily believe exist.
It gives birth to wonderful character performances like Garance Marillier in Raw. She could easily be portraying one of us, slowly getting corrupted by the events of the story. Marillier’s vulnerable student in a crazy world is something easy to understand. While the university hazing plotline, especially with the supernatural element that creeps in over the course of the film, is extreme, Marillier adds an honest realism. Cue several tiny and relatively meaningless scenes, where Marillier and her sister attempt urinating standing up, keeling over laughing in the process. While it doesn’t forward the plot in the slightest, you are left with a very real character that we enjoy spending this dark film with. At the same time, she is game for the more powerful scenes. The shot where she finally gives into the craving she has been leading up to for the whole film is a gloriously disturbing piece of acting. She would be terrible at dinner parties. Loves finger foods…
1 – LILY COLLINS – TO THE BONE
But the female performance that blew me away utterly and completely was Lily Collins in To The Bone. It proves that Netflix with Okja and this film really cornered the market for the most impressive female performances. To The Bone shows a hardened woman work her way through rehab after suffering with anorexia. Collins gives everything to the role. It’s not just the personal experiences she willing opens up to give a honest, real performance, but the changes to her body. While animation helps with the more disturbing shots of her disappearing body, Collins did lose so much weight to give the role added depth. It is uncomfortably real, a truly gripping piece of cinematic art that educates as well as dramatizes. The beauty of the script is that Lily Collins’ character is so much more than a film about the illness. She harkens a bit of the other female Netflix success story: Jessica Jones. Snarky, bitter and more willing to offer a sarcastic comeback than an emotional revelation… she is a victim without ever feeling like a victim. It makes the movie all the more shocking. She shoulders the weight of… ummm, having no weight… so well that you don’t realise how far the character is slipping. It gives way to some scenes that Collins has the chance to just perform her heart out with. If you haven’t watched it yet, it’s free on Netflix. You are no excuses!