Dever conveys a simmering mess of father issues, abuse, and self-inflicted injury with a degree of skill that's well beyond her years. For all the bile she spews -- be it with nonchalant sarcasm or violent rage -- we can see a severely damaged human being desperately seeking a way to reach out. Her big scene is utterly heart-breaking thanks to her quivering restraint.
I wasn't crazy about this movie on the whole, but it seemed a shame not to chalk it up for acting. And as great as Michael B. Jordon and Octavia Spencer are, for my money, its Diaz who makes the most of an underwritten part, elevating her material and bringing us to genuinely invest in her more empathy than the stock "supportive girlfriend" role usually elicits.
Okay, I'll bite. The line on Johnasson's awards worthiness has been split down middle between those who think she deserved a nomination and those who find the notion laughable, but how can a performance that finds so much intriguing emotion in only voice not be considered one of the year's best? The nuance with which she evokes Samantha's evolution is something special.
Patsy could easily have become an object of misery porn -- and indeed, some have myopically accused it of just that. And yet Nyong'o is far too tactful to let that actually happen, so the severity of Patsy's suffering is carefully paced and revealed in soul-crushing silence, right up until the film's most brutal set piece (which will probably clinch her the Academy Award in just over a month's time).
The perfect foil to Michael Fassbender's outwardly manifested evil is this unnervingly sinister performance that makes evil an implicit presence. Mistress Epps' venom and jealously is etched across Paulson's hardened face in every frame, so much so that her ghostlike grip on the slaves in her husband's charge can be felt even when she's not on screen.
AMY ADAMS in Her
SALLY HAWKINS in Blue Jasmine
JENNIFER LAWRENCE in American Hustle
MARGOT ROBBIE in The Wolf of Wall Street
JOANNA SCANLAN in The Invisible Woman