Blanchett's Jasmine is a mesmerizing creation: A brittle, vodka-guzzling, pill-popping, nervous wreck who recites the same vapid parlour talk over and over to herself in a delusional attempt to hang on to her former life. Blanchett's haughty elocution fits the character like a glove, whether she's disingenuously putting on airs for her moneyed friends or clumsily stomping on the other half with her backhanded comments. We can't help but watched transfixed as she crashes and burns.
Ryan's character arc is streamlined and seemingly meager, but it's all Sandra Bullock needs to carve out a believable and empathetic human presence on screen. She grounds Gravity's zero-G spectacle with a no-frills, physically demanding portrayal of a woman adrift (in every sense of the word), feeling a deadening disconnect with humanity and her home planet below. But her performance ultimately reveals itself to be a powerful affirmation of the will to live, even when there appears to be nothing to live for.
Over the course of the last eighteen years, Delpy has built Celine from the ground up; a constantly evolving modern woman who nevertheless holds true to all of her most winning virtues and most damaging insecurities. She might have come across as a paranoid harpy in the hands of another actress, but Delpy's interpretation makes it clear to us that she's the only one who can cut through her husband's passive aggressive bullshit, and we can see she's coming from a place of love and frustration.
I can appreciate how some viewers would glean nothing more from this performance than an indie urbanite succumbing to all the worst hipster clichés, but perhaps its because I relate so well to the themes of Frances Ha that Gerwig's vibrant yet secretly sad performance rings so true to me. Her quirkiness and offbeat charm is delicately offset by her stubbornness and pride, as she slowly comes to the realization that life won't wait for her to grow up. It's that painful but essential maturation that elevates this performance from merely funny to truly moving.
A quiet revelation at the centre of a beautifully acted film all 'round, Larson has the challenge of letting us, the audience, into a character whose greatest flaw is not letting people in. Although she is a strong, independent woman and a crucially positive role model, her independence is in fact what weakens her the most. She shows us through only the subtlest movements of her emotive eyes and the softest tremors of her voice how the ghosts of Grace's childhood continue to haunt her.
AMY ADAMS in American Hustle
JUDI DENCH in Philomena
FELICITY JONES in The Invisible Woman
WAAD MOHAMMED in Wadjda
SOPHIE NELLISE in The Book Thief