Mike’s Favorite Female Supporting Performances of the Decade (60-51)

I make ‘favorite performance’ lists every year, and I get that these lists, more than the rest, are the most subjective one can make. Because it’s really about what you see in each performance and what you respond to; There’s no objective way to truly rate a performance as better than another. With whole films, it feels easier to make that distinction. So with these lists, I’m just gonna focus on some performances from the decade that I really, really enjoyed, and the goal here is just to shout them out and maybe get some people to watch the films if they hadn’t or reevaluate each of the performances the next time they watch the films.

These are my favorite female supporting performances of the decade:

60. Jennifer Jason Leigh, The Hateful Eight

I spent the whole time from when the script leaked to casting to filming to watching the film thinking about how much more interesting someone else would have been in this part that I didn’t really appreciate the work Leigh did in it until long afterward. Most Quentin parts are foolproof and most people can do a great job. I think we all acknowledge that at this point. But she does do a fantastic job with the role, which, while she is a focal point of the film… she really is kind of a side character for a lot of it. Mostly she’s there to say nasty things and get under Kurt Russell’s skin and then for reaction shots a lot of the way. But she manages to make herself a presence and really stand out in a film full of men. She’s the only female character in the film (in the present, anyway, aside from like eight minutes of flashback), so she has to do a good job to stand out among all the dudes in the room.

59. Katherine Waterston, Steve Jobs

This came right on the heels of the Inherent Vice performance, and it made it very clear that Waterston is one of the best we have working today. It’s a very great performance that is given among a lot of other great performances (and another supporting part in the film that is probably gonna end up in or around the top ten of this list). Also kind of a thankless part in a way. Though, it’s Sorkin, so there are almost no thankless parts as long as you have words to say. But among everyone else, she’s the ‘abandoned wife who is barely staying above water even though her ex-husband is rich’. She comes in, she argues with him, they fight about money and the fact that he won’t acknowledge his own daughter. She shows up in all three sections of the film, and is kind of the emotional backbone of the film. A lot of the other stuff is all the business side. But she represents the emotional side of Jobs, the complicated family side we never really got to see. It’s a really important part, and she manages to make it stand out, even though I’m sure most people would rather focus on all the other parts of the film.

58. Karen Gillan, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle

Everyone’s great in this movie, but if I had to single out two performances — one I already talked about, which is Jack Black, and the other is Karen Gillan. She’s so great here, as the ‘killer of men’, badass character played by shy girl Martha. So for most of the movie Gillan gets to act awkwardly before coming into her own and realizing she can beat the shit out of people. The scene where Black’s character teaches her how to seduce men is the best scene in the film. If there’s anyone who didn’t realize what a star Gillan is, this performance should have done it.

57. Chloe Moretz, Kick-Ass

It’s been a full decade, but now that it’s here, I think we all just went, “Oh yeah, right. Of course.” Because this was the first of the performances this decade where everyone was on board with how awesome it is. And Chloe Moretz became a star because of it. But mostly it’s just awesome because it’s a child cursing and murdering people. Still, she plays it really well and is the best thing in a movie that features Nicolas Cage doing his best Adam West impersonation. That’s hard to do.

56. Amy Adams, The Master

And it’s not (just) because she jerked off Philip Seymour Hoffman over a sink. This, like most Amy Adams performances, is one we all acknowledge as good because she’s always good, but gets outshined by the leads of the film, to the point where you’re not really sure how good she really is. But, having gone back to this film specifically to watch her — it’s a great piece of work. You always wish there’s more, but a lot of that is because you wish there was more Amy Adams in everything. But what’s there is really strong and unfortunately doesn’t get the recognition it deserves.

55. Kaitlyn Dever, Short Term 12

One of the themes throughout this list is that I like starmaking (at least, for me. The world is always a few years behind such things) roles where you see an actor you know nothing about and they just jump off the screen, make you wonder who it is and make you want to see everything they do from then on. That was Kaitlyn Dever in this movie. I know Brie Larson got all the acclaim, and Lakeith Stanfield got all the work, but she was the one that was quietly the best thing in the film, and it took her a little longer to get the right roles to break out (now, after Booksmart and that miniseries, I think everyone’s on board with this). But this was, for me at least, her first really great performance, where you’re almost in awe of how good someone can be given their relative age. It’s one of the best teenage performances I’ve seen in a long time.

54. Marina de Tavira, Roma

She got nominated for it, so at least now some people will go back and watch the film and focus on her performance. Because it’s easy to take something like that for granted, given all the other wonderful elements of the film. But I like that she somehow gets really emotional moments and really absurdly funny moments at the same time. There’s a fine line with the performance, but she traverses it beautifully. She has some of the best moments in the film.

53. Katherine Waterston, Inherent Vice

This is the role that made her a star. She is the focal point of the film. Everything Joaquin is doing is in search of her. And, like Harry Lime, she just shows up about 2/3 of the way through the film. And then she has this tremendous scene with Joaquin, which culminates in this incredible monologue that she gives that just stops the film cold. Because before this you’re kind of bouncing along in the fun, 70s milieu, and Joaquin is goofy and Josh Brolin is screaming about pancakes and all this weird shit is happening. And then she shows up and there’s this really serious monologue where she’s crying and totally naked but it’s not sexy but rather completely and utterly vulnerable, and it just completely alters the tone of the whole film for a bit. It’s a great piece of acting.

52. Jeong-eun Lee, Parasite

A great performance, largely dependent on how commonplace she seems in the first half. At first, she’s just the maid, and they’re using her as a pawn for their own agenda. And then she shows up again, and that’s when the movie turns on its head. And everything she does after that is just incredible. You get so much of her backstory and character in those moments, and it’s not even necessarily on the page. It’s all conveyed by how she plays it. It’s really fantastic. Also — hell of a set of face plants she takes in this one. Just saying.

51. Elizabeth Debicki, Widows

I still can’t believe she hasn’t broken out. This should have been the role. But of course, no one bothered to watch the film. Here, she plays one of the widows, the one whose husband was abusive, but she still loved him, and since she had no skills whatsoever and was taken care of by her husband, she has no real recourse for taking care of herself. So she ends up being talked into becoming an escort (by her mother, of all people, which should tell you so much about this character). And then, while being an escort, she’s also helping with this heist, and learns to use her wits (and body) to get the things done that she needs to get done. It is the standout performance of the film. I just wish more people knew that.

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One response

  1. Doesn’t Katherine Waterston only appear in the first two-thirds of Steve Jobs?

    April 10, 2020 at 2:50 pm

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