Monday, June 17, 2024

Oscars Upset Coming in Best Actress? Andrea Riseborough in “To Leslie” Is Suddenly the It Girl, Throws Out Oscar Campaign Rules


The new It Girl in Hollywood? British actress Andrea Riseborough, who stars in the indie, small budget “To Leslie.”

Released by no one you know, and directed by no one heard of, “To Leslie” got a last minute push from powerhouse agency CAA. They lined up dozens of famous actresses to come out swinging for Riseborough.

What else worked? A mention by Cate Blanchett on the Golden Globes of Riseborough’s work. In the final minutes of voting, Academy members went running to their screening links to see what Blanchett was talking about.

Riseborough got a shout out on the Critics Choice Awards as well.

Now everyone will be looking at “To Leslie” with fresh eyes, as a fresh movie they know nothing about. Voila! Riseborough, I think, jumps to the front of the Best Actress pack.

So what is the story here? “To Leslie” is a story we’ve seen before. A washed up alcoholic loses everything and has to hit rock bottom before staging a comeback. In this case, Leslie lives in Texas, she’s over 40, her 19 year old son has been taken away years earlier. And for a twist, Leslie squandered a $190,000 lottery win on booze and junk. It’s all gone, she’s broke, destitute. Everyone she knows hates her.

The movie is a lovely little gem. It’s Michel Morris’s directing debut — he’s a TV producer. But he pulled it off. The movie has a lot of air and dimension. It falls somewhere between “Leaving Las Vegas” and “Nomadland.” Plus it has a bunch of strong supporting performers in Oscar winner Allison Janney, Stephen Root, Andre Royo (yay!), James Landry H├ębert, and Owen Teague.

Riseborough, unknown to most people., is British. She also plays well to do characters. But she’s gone full Sally Field-Norma Rae here with no makeup, looking disheveled, roughed up, Texas accent, and she’s totally convincing. Like Norma Rae, Leslie is plucky and makes mistakes. But she figures them out just in time.

So there it is: could be an upset on March 12th. And if so, the whole Oscar campaign game will be changed forever.

Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman
Roger Friedman began his Showbiz411 column in April 2009 after 10 years with Fox News, where he created the Fox411 column. His movie reviews are carried by Rotten Tomatoes, and he is a member of both the movie and TV branches of the Critics Choice Awards. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications over the years including New York Magazine, where he wrote the Intelligencer column in the mid 90s and covered the OJ Simpson trial, and Fox News (when it wasn't so crazy) where he covered Michael Jackson. He is also the writer and co-producer of "Only the Strong Survive," a selection of the Cannes, Sundance, and Telluride Film festivals, directed by DA Pennebaker and Chris Hegedus.

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