2019 saw some fine performances by female actors in Hollywood films. With the Oscar race gathering steam as the year comes to an end, we look back at some of the finest performances that we saw this year.
From Lupita Nyong’o’s dual role in Jordan Peele’s Us to Alfre Woodard’s haunting performance in Clemency, the year had a plethora of applause-worthy performances. Scarlett Johansson (Marriage Story) and Saoirse Ronan (Little Women) are gaining great reviews at the moment, but there were a few more that caught our attention this year.
Here are the best performances by female actors in 2019:
(The list is in chronological order of film releases)
Lupita Nyong’o – Us
Jordan Peele’s Us blew away the audience with its shocking plot twists. Lupita Nyong’o played a double role in the film. While she starts off as scared Adelaide, we eventually meet her tethered version Red who has basically orchestrated an entire movement to get back at those who left them underground. As Red, Lupita is unafraid of whatever might come her way. She is vicious, scary and has the ability to bring down civilisation. But as the film proceeds, we learn that Red and Adelaide are actually cut from the same cloth. The representation of this duality becomes Lupita’s strength in the film and could lead her to earn an Oscar nod this year.
Florence Pugh – Midsommar
Midsommar is definitely one of the weirdest films to come out this year. As director Ari Aster takes you on a journey inside a Swedish cult, you choose to align yourself to Pugh’s Dani. Even before the credits roll, Dani has gone through a heartbreaking tragedy and her journey in Sweden, from an outsider to becoming a part of the ‘family’ is quite consuming. Pugh’s Dani begins as a subservient girlfriend who goes on to raise her voice after she starts getting support from Pelle and other members of the ‘family’. Her smile after that violent climax speaks volumes about Dani’s journey.
Awkwafina – The Farewell
Over the years, Awkwafina has established herself as a comic actor, so it was quite disarming to watch her in the role of Billi Wang in The Farewell. She lives in two worlds – there’s one with her roots, and then, there’s the other one which she has now accepted as her own. Awkaafina delivers a stunning performance as the woman who is coming to terms with her grandmother’s illness as she tries to see the world through her eyes.
Renee Zellweger – Judy
This biopic of Judy Garland had Renee Zellweger playing the titular role. We see Judy in her 40s as she is struggling to get back to her glory days while dealing with substance abuse. Renee plays Judy as a strong-willed woman who did the best she could but living in a world where everything was dictated to her, things were never really in her control. She is gullible and trusts people that she shouldn’t. It is tragic to see Judy go through this difficult stretch, and Renee Zellweger makes us feel that pain.
Scarlett Johansson – Marriage Story
Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story became the most anticipated film of the year soon after its trailer came out. Scarlett’s Nicole is an actor who was a teen star in Los Angeles but moved to New York after she met Adam Driver’s Charlie. She is emotionally vulnerable yet strong enough to look ahead and know her next steps. Nicole is distraught after she realises that she will always be second to Charlie but does not lose faith in herself. Her strength is her determination to stay on the chosen path which might seem harsh to Charlie but is something that she has to do for her betterment.
Felicity Jones -The Aeronauts
Jones plays Amelia Wren in The Aeronauts. In the film that is set during the 1800s, we see her embark on an adventure which seemed impossible to many at the time – the prediction of weather. While the film largely talks of James’ (Eddie Redmayne) struggles, we see Felicity deliver a performance that is remarkable. Her flashback portions with Pierre leave a lasting impact.
Saoirse Ronan – Little Women
In Greta Gerwig’s Little Women, Saoirse Ronan plays Jo March. Ronan had earlier played the lead character in Greta’s Lady Bird, and here too, the two make for a good team. One of the downsides of adopting a popular book is that the filmmaker has to struggle against the audience’s perception of the subject. But in Ronan’s Jo, Gerwig has found the perfect person to tell the story that has influenced many generations. Ronan might earn an Oscar nomination this year for her performance in Little Women.
Alfre Woodard – Clemency
Alfre Woodard took up a mammoth task by accepting the role of Bernadine Williams in Clemency. She plays a prison warden who has to execute death sentences. Her job is starting to take a toll on her personal life and Woodard’s character is crumbling under that pressure. She has to put up a strong face in the male-dominated space, but with the growing realisation that the system is not what she truly believes in, the environment turns haunting for the viewer. Alfre Woodard was widely appreciated at the film’s premiere at Sundance Film Festival.