My own final ballot, the six best performances by a supporting actress to grace our screens in 2018. Many of them much-ballyhooed, many of them underrated amid the usual fracas of myopic Oscar fever, all of them worthy of recognition and supreme acknowledgement.
6. Marina de Tavira – ROMA
While Aparicio is earning a majority of Roma‘s plaudits, and deservedly so, Tavira has been thrown by the wayside. This is likely due to her “unlikable” character, the unbalanced mother whom Aparicio’s Cleo alternately loves and fears depending on the day. In contrast to her indelible screen partner, Tavira brings experience to the role of Ms. Sofi, a woman at a crossroads in the wake of her philandering husband’s exit from her life and the life of her children. She’s a good mother and a good person undone by the epiphany of her failed marriage. For too long she’s lived in the shadow of her husband, the man-king of the house in Mexico, and every regret and inch of resolve is etched on Tavira’s face from not-so-happy family to happy surrogate family.
5. Anya Taylor-Joy – THOROUGHBREDS
A classically beautiful actress with high-fashion credentials AND real acting chops? It’s a rarity and we should be so grateful. Taylor-Joy is a joy to watch (pardon the pun) and she established a high-water mark for herself this year as Lily in Thoroughbreds, a dark-comic drama about two sociopathic teenage girls on the warpath against Lily’s wicked stepfather. She’s well cast as the wealthy daughter to an unknowable fortune, a girl sheltered from inequity or heartache but not her own devious mind. She’s excellent at conveying the subtle tics of a girl accustomed to facades and facile personalities. She’s not used to somebody as blunt and expressly bored as Amanda (Olivia Cooke), and it shows. Taylor-Joy shows us talent well beyond her years.
4. Hari Nef – ASSASSINATION NATION
Never mind the mixed reviews or minor cultural footprint, Hari Nef’s performance in Ben Levinson’s wild, angry, wicked feminist screed is a breakthrough for the transgender community. Not only does she, as well as the film itself, avoid pigeonholing the character as “the transgender girl,” but her uniquely feminine wiles are the best hope against prejudice in a world that condemns men and women for what they believe is mere dress-up. There’s no doubting or denigrating Nef, she’s a woman and she’s the film’s greatest allegory for screaming into the void. Pay attention to her own two eyes in a single sex scene and you’ll find an entire character arc in one fell swoop. She’s that good.
3. Elizabeth Debicki – WIDOWS
She’s best in show among a who’s-who of Hollywood in Steve McQueen’s high-art heist thriller. From Viola Davis to Liam Neeson, Robert Duvall to Colin Farrell, Debicki outperforms all of them in route to one of the best performances of the year. Speaking Polish like a pro and going toe to toe with Davis like she’s got something to prove, Debicki is constantly endearing as Alice, the lonely wife of a fallen criminal who’s resolved to make something of herself. She’s tired of Mom tellin’ her to fuck for money and she’s tired of bossy, wealthy Veronica Rawlings tellin’ her what she’s worth, which to her ain’t nothing. In a cast full of personalities, hers stands tallest, literally and figuratively.
2. Natalie Portman – VOX LUX
Allow me to get into the weeds here. I’m convinced people, including critics, don’t pay attention to movies. How else do you explain the odd criticisms of Natalie’s performance as Celeste, singling out her thick Long Island accent as an egregious choice based on the lack of one in Raffey Cassidy’s performance as younger Celeste? Because, see…Cassidy DOES have a clear Long Island yak. Need I say more? Portman goes for broke as the narcissistic pop star all grown up in Vox Lux‘s third act, charting the end trajectory of a complicated, broken woman at the end of her rope professionally and emotionally. She’s only deemed unlikable because women are rarely given the opportunity to play blustery East Coast assholes with a chip on their shoulder (and venom on their tongue), and Portman knocks it out of the park, easily elevating the back half of Brady Corbet’s film.
1. Nicole Kidman – BOY ERASED
Kidman’s mother is the heart and soul of a picture sometimes devoid of feeling, its fragmented structure and muted tones sapping from an otherwise emotional tale of one boy’s experience at a gay conversation therapy camp. I’ve never been much of a fan of Kidman until this year, where she’s proven to be the best thing about not only Joel Edgerton’s film but also DC’s Aquaman, in each film an otherworldly beauty brought down to earth by new questions. Does she speak up when her husband proposes such a thing for her only child? Kidman walks a tightrope, perfectly conveying the anguish wrought by that decision while also staying tight-lipped regarding her true feelings on the matter. She’s a woman used to deferring to her husband’s wishes, never wanting to trip up or slip up for fear of the man’s bellicose retributions. Nancy Conley is a devout Christian and a loyal wife, until the tragedy of her son’s predicament becomes too much to bear. In the end, she blames herself for letting it happen, as seen in one incredible scene where she opens up to Gerrard, her tears revealing an ocean of regret.