Mmmmm pumpkin pie.
We fancy baking with Amy Adams at the moment because just this morning, rescreening The Fighter we caught the faint but unmistakable aroma of "Oscar win". Now it could be that our olfactory senses are failing us and the contest really is between Melissa Leo (The Fighter) and Jacki Weaver (Animal Kingdom), two cinematic moms more likely to devour their young than bake them pies, should both be nominated as is the semi-common wisdom. But suddenly we liked Amy's chances a lot more.
First, you have to consider that the Oscar race is still in its infancy. We have perceived frontrunners at this point but none are so much as official nominees yet. Ballots are sent out in one more week on Monday December 27th and a month later we hear the results. In other words, actors and actresses (and the actual films and performances of course) still have two months left to make their case that their names should be read on the nominee list and then be declared winner on Oscar night.
|Helena, Melissa, Amy, Jacki, Hailee, Mila, Dianne & Barbara. Which|
combo of 5 will it be? Conventional wisdom says Helena, Melissa, Amy,
Mila & Jacki but Oscar's list can sometimes surprise.
Third, Amy is employing that age old Oscar trick of playing against type. It's not (thankfully) a complete about face so it doesn't feel like a bald plea for prizes. Adams is still an enchanting dream girlfriend of sorts, but after the roles that made her so beloved - a naive pregnant chatterbox (Junebug), a naive musically animated heroine (Enchanted), a naive nun eager to believe the best about people (Doubt) -- that cynical been-around edge she brings to The Fighter's girlfriend Charlene Fleming, feels like enough of a revelation to count.
But mostly this newfound hunch that she could well be our Oscar winner comes from viewing The Fighter a second time. The manic energy and performative electricity of the "Alice & Dicky" (Melissa Leo & Christian Bale) pair is still remarkable and stormy. In a way Wahlberg's Micky Ward is the eye of this hurricane, the film's eerily quiet (some would say blank) center. Adam's Charlene, then, is the audience-surrogate character. She's the most universally relatable character and there to make us feel warmly towards and protective of the passive protagonist... and thus the film. Everyone who pays any attention knows that awards voters cherish a supportive girlfriend/spouse.
|"I like my life."|
And, most importantly, Adams absolutely delivers in her big "clip" moment, which happens to be The Fighter's emotional climax before it goes on to the easier narrative business of its true story sports triumph. (You can rewatch this scene on quicktime but I don't recommend doing so if you haven't seen the film yet; it's always best to see things in context.) In the scene she and Dicky have what amounts to a truce that still feels like a war as they attempt to force each other into confession... though neither of them actually confess so much as reluctantly acknowledge a vague failure at life. Charlene, a tough girl to the end, holds back tears but you can feel the survivalist hurt, especially when she bats away Dicky's question "What have you ever done with your life?" with a stubborn "I like my life. I like my life now Dicky."
What she likes is not her actual life so much as the life she's beginning to eke out with Micky, the one that she knows Alice & Dicky could take from her should she stumble.
When people fall in love with a character, the actor embodying them often gets thrown in the ring, suddenly fighting for that heavyweight Oscar title.