Angus McGregor discusses the film that created controversy at this years Oscars…
With award season in full swing, the Oscar nominations usually bring several surprises and some controversy. From plain crowd pleasers to disastrous snubs, there is often a fallout leading to a great discourse within film. Strangely, this year a small independent film To Leslie was the centre of this, with Andrea Riseborough’s Best Actress nomination seeming peculiar. Not following the usual routine campaigns, Riseborough’s performance was backed by a number of high-profile celebrities, with word of mouth eventually leading to growth in popularity and support. To Leslie soon became the little film that could, albeit controversy and even investigations ensuing to see whether the proceedings were fair or not. As award season is about awarding the best in film, it should simply come down to whether Riseborough’s performance is one of the best of the year. In this example, it is spot on as Riseborough’s role is vital in this sombre character driven drama.
The Oscar controversy has indefinitely boosted this film’s place in the spotlight but this is actually a good example of the Academy getting it right. To Leslie follows a former lotto winner who threw it all away, with plenty struggles coming along with it, leading to her being stuck in a rut. With this, Riseborough gets to shine as the dysfunctional Leslie, who’s struggles are apparent and as things seem to be going well, you know a relapse is about to happen in some shape or form. Riseborough is brilliant, portraying many different ways in which someone with addiction behaves, showing a great range along the way. There’s plenty of chances for her to flex with a maniacal side as well as one that is very much vulnerable. Along with a well written script by Ryan Binaco, the character never turns into a caricature, creating a very powerful character study of a troubled women.
Backing Riseborough up are several strong supports, most notably Marc Maron’s Sweeney who looks to provide a consistent support for Leslie. The relationship depicted between the two is fantastic in displaying the relationships between loved ones when one is in a down situation, and how a structure or consistency can make a crucial difference. A forced romantic side takes away from it a little but the characters relations are handled very well in showcasing the differences that can be made by the right people but ultimately the correct choices.
To Leslie never shies away from how hard a battle an addict goes through. There’s plenty of lows that draw great sympathy toward the character, although there are many that induce frustration with her choices. This creates an authentic feeling, as you are put in the shoes of those closest to her, hoping for a break and that the pattern will be broken. Unfortunately, that isn’t always the case, leading to further conflicts and issues.
Controversy aside, Riseborough’s performance is deservedly recognised, and the boosting of this film is only a positive thing. A strong leading performance with a great depiction of a real struggle in the world, To Leslie is a very worthwhile viewing. Now getting it’s time in the spotlight which many smaller films don’t get, this is a massive win for independent cinema and one that deserves the many eyes now drawn to it.