Sunday, December 9, 2007

Give This Woman an Oscar!

Nothing against the Dames (Judi and Helen) or the K(C)ates (Winslet and Blanchett) or even the Aussie twins (Nicole and Naomi)—all brilliant actresses, indeed—but it’s time that we started valuing an acting treasure on this side of the pond.
Quietly, and with little fanfare—annoyingly little fanfare—Laura Linney has been amassing one of the great film careers of all time. And yet where is her Oscar love? True, she got nominated for her breakout role in You Can Count on Me. And she was also nominated as Best Supporting Actress for 2005’s Kinsey. But she certainly should have been nominated for her role as the actress/wife on The Truman Show. All cheerful detergent commercial on the outside, Linney’s Meryl was in fact this close to a complete meltdown. (And when she finally blows, oh how she blows.) She played a similar role in this season’s underrated The Nanny Diaries as a Park Avenue Mother from Hell. No actress is better at showing the brittle side of American bonhomie. She brings that certain kind of well-bred perfectionist neuroticism to great comic heights—both hilarious and heartbreaking.
She was weak-willed yet defiant in P.S., as an insecure college administrator who played cruel games with her cocksure young lover. She was nearly perfect in The Squid and the Whale, as a loyal wife who chose not to be so loyal anymore. She was tragically smitten as the dutiful sister in Love, Actually. She is fearless when it comes to showing female sexuality—playing characters that are sexually brazen, sexually needy, or sometimes both. And yet, nothing.
But we can remedy that this season. Linney gives what is possibly a career-best performance in The Savages, as a pushing-40 playwright who is having a joyless affair with a married man, and who takes perverse pleasure in both her own lies (she drops them like tiny, conversational atom bombs), and her own melodramatic sense of nobility (it’s her martyr complex that allows her to lie with such guilelessness.) Watching Linney work with Philip Seymour Hoffman, who plays her world-weary brother—a man who hides his own vulnerability behind a baggy parka and pounds of girth—is a rare cinematic treat. We get to watch two of America’s great actors play off each other, in a script that is worthy of their gifts.
Oscar wins rely on a bit of luck. You need to be in the right film, in the right year, with of course, the right amount of studio muscle behind your bid.
To Fox Searchlight, I say this. This can be Laura Linney’s year. As of today, her biggest competition is Marion Cotillard in La Vie en Rose (and she’s—gasp—French!). And Julie Christie in Away From Her (uh oh, another Brit). So do what you have to do: Take out full page ads in Variety. Send The Savages (plus a clip reel of all of Linney’s great overlooked work) to every voting member of the Academy. Make her a Dame if you have to. (Is there an American version of becoming a Dame? An Oprah Winfrey endorsement perhaps?). It’s Laura Linney’s time, people. Make it happen.