Mike’s Favorite Female Supporting Performances of the Decade (50-41)

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:

50. Tiffany Haddish, Girls Trip

To me, this was everything the Melissa McCarthy performance in Bridesmaids wasn’t. While I didn’t quite understand all the acclaim for that one, this was the one where I went, “That’s one of the best pieces of work I saw this year.” Because no one really knew who Tiffany Haddish was before that movie, and she just completely burst onto the scene because of it. That movie is at least 25% better because of the energy she brought to it. She has a few legitimately laugh out loud funny moments, which counteract all the dumb scenes that the plot has (which largely still kinda work, but are still dumb and unnecessary comedy scenes that every studio comedy seems to have nowadays). It’s hard not to include this on a list of most memorable performances of the decade. Sure, like Melissa McCarthy, she’s diminished it a bit by playing variations of the same character over and over again, but that first time — this one’s magical. That grapefruit scene, though.

49. Naomi Watts, St. Vincent

I loved this performance. She’s so funny as the Russian hooker who has this weird relationship with Bill Murray’s character. She steals practically every scene she’s in. The film never quite landed with people, but it’s one I enjoy going back to and revisiting. And Watts’ is the performance in it that never fails to make me laugh.

48. Ellen Page, Super

She’s so fucking unhinged in this movie, I love it. It’s a really fucked up character for her to play, and it’s a great 180 from Juno. Because she pretty much got typecast after that part, even though she always did pick interesting material. It’s hard to distance yourself any further than this, playing a comic book nerd who joins in with a(nother) mentally ill person to fight crime despite a lack of super powers. And it becomes clear the more time you spend with her character that she’s just interested in the violence aspect and fucking people up, whether they deserve it or not. She… has some moments in this movie. I feel confident in saying she currently has the distinction of being the only female superhero character to rape a male superhero character. So there’s that.

47. Margot Robbie, The Wolf of Wall Street

This is a star-making performance. I’ll be honest — at first everyone remembered her because of the nakedness, but she stayed because she’s a great actress. Go back to the performance. For every scene that objectifies her (the full frontal, the panties scene, having sex on the money), there’s also a great dramatic part as well. The fight at the end is quite good and shows all the promise she’d fulfill later in the decade with her other work.

46. Samantha Barks, Les Misérables

She’s not nearly featured in the movie enough, but the parts she is featured in — goddamn. There are really four standout ‘one take’ songs that highlight the actors’ singing ability as well as the performance. Hathaway, of course, Eddie Redmayne at the end, Jackman in the church near the beginning, and then this. It’s mostly about the singing, but damn, does Samantha Barks absolutely destroy “On My Own.” It’s an incredible piece of work, and she brings the acting chops to sell the moment the way it needs to be sold, too. Unfortunately the character is largely dumped by the wayside for much of the film. Most of her moments are in big crowd scenes or reaction shots from the side as she pines unrequitedly for Marius. But this moment alone is worth a spot this high on the list, and if there were more of her in the film, she’d probably have gone even higher.

 

45. Jessica Chastain, The Help

This was, in a way, her starmaking performance. I mean, really, she had like four this year, but this is the one most people saw, even if Tree of Life is probably ‘the’ one of the bunch. But this character was, to me, the most interesting in the film. She got to play bubbly and inept, which was fun, and then you got those nice moments where she’s just so pure in a way that she hasn’t even considered being racist. Her scenes with Octavia Spencer were the best in the film for me, and honestly, if there was a performance in the film I preferred most, it was also this one. I just think she did a great job.

44. Scarlett Johansson, Jojo Rabbit

It’s a great role, and she makes the most of it. I struggled with whether or not I liked the performance because of how much was presented to her on the page and how much was her doing the work, but if I’m being honest — whichever percentage each one gets, you don’t get that moment with the shoes without a character you care about. So all credit to everything that’s on screen (a lot of which is Scarlett Johansson’s innate likability and her showing the struggle of this woman to go through all she’s going through — single parent, raising a child during the Holocaust, keeping a Jewish girl in the attic, and her son being a Nazi youth — to great effect.

43. Zoe Kazan, The Ballad of Buster Scruggs

The film is a bit of a mixed bag (kind of by design. As an anthology, there are gonna be segments you like more than others), but there’s no denying that the strongest performances come in this segment, “The Gal Who Got Rattled,” the penultimate segment of the film. Kazan plays a single woman who travels out west with her brother, who is going to sell her into marriage with a potential business partner. But he dies pretty much as the trip starts, so now she’s traveling out west with no real guarantee of marriage. And along the way, she starts a cute romance of sorts with the trail hand, which involves a lot of sweet and thoroughly awkward exchanges. The Coens write it wonderfully, using the inability for people to say what they’re feeling to lead to some really awkward silences that Kazan plays up perfectly. And, of course, there’s the ending, which — I’ll say that of all the characters in the film, she’s the one you care most about. And a lot of that is a testament to her complete and utter likability on screen.

42. Thomasin McKenzie, Jojo Rabbit

She, to me, gives the best performance in the film. She’s so great here. I really like how she plays it — because the role of a Jewish girl hiding in a crawlspace in a German household where the youngest son is a Nazi… you automatically feel for her. But she plays it almost like a bully, which is a great way to see that character. She’s a victim who doesn’t act like a victim, because she’s angry. This situation took away from her everything she used to have. She’s also got some wonderful scenes with Roman Griffin Davis, and those, to me, are the heart of the film, much more so than the scenes with Davis and Johansson. I know Scarlett gets all the praise because she’s the mother, but I thought McKenzie was so much more affecting.

41. Tilda Swinton, Snowpiercer

Oh, Tilda. I love how people (especially Bong Joon Ho) are tailoring the weirdness specifically for her. Everything she does with this character is just so utterly memorable. And the character is perfect, because she’s the figurehead. The conductor is the silent power, but she’s the spokesperson. So she gets to be the personification of the evil that lies at the front of the train, and, if you’re looking at it like a video game, is the one who keeps showing up and is just out of reach of the main character before each level, keeping attention away from the final boss. But also — the look, the teeth, the accent — it’s just perfect. At this point, we don’t really need to explain why Tilda is on a list of best performances. But man, is it always great when she gets one to play with.

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