Mike’s Favorite Female Supporting Performances of the Decade (10-1)

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:

10. Anne Hathaway, Les Misérables

It’s a powerful piece of work. Sure, most of it is “I Dreamed a Dream,” but there are few more memorable or iconic scenes and images from this decade than Hathaway performing that song. I can’t say I don’t love the performance. It’s just a really affecting character, and she wrings every bit of emotion out of it that she can. She’s not even in the last half or more of the film, but you still remember the performance despite all that.

9. Dafne Keen, Logan

I’m not sure there was a more auspicious debut this decade than that of Dafne Keen. We all went into Logan because we love Hugh Jackman and love the Wolverine character, and from the trailers we all knew it was gonna be dramatic and emotional. But none of us were expecting Keen. And they handle the character perfectly too. From that moment where we reveal her abilities, murdering all the bounty hunters, and then the fact that she doesn’t speak for the first two-thirds of the film. But she completely holds your attention in any way, and is often the most compelling person on the screen. There’s just a complete presence there, and she owns every situation she’s in. And then she starts speaking, and that’s when the performance hits a complete other level. It’s her performance and her relationship to Jackman that gets that ending to work as well as it does. Sure, a lot of it is time we spent with the character and love for him, but it’s also her. I can’t watch that ending without crying, and a lot of that is her performance.

8. Melissa Leo, The Fighter

You just totally believe her in this role. This is one of those divine moments, where the perfect actress gets the perfect part and the results are just magical. Leo had been a character actress whose big break came just a few years earlier in Frozen River, and then immediately she jumped into this. And she is just completely this woman. I remember going to see this movie and thinking Bale was gonna win the Oscar and thinking she’d have a real damn shot at it as well. It’s also funny because she never really has that one big ‘scene’ in the film, but rather it’s just a consistent greatness where you pay attention to her in every scene she’s in. This isn’t a peaks and valleys performance. This is a straight line of great stuff all throughout the film.

7. Lesley Manville, Phantom Thread

God, do I love this performance. This year has three performances in this top ten. Hers is the one that has grown exponentially for me over time. She is just the complete perfect complement to Daniel Day-Lewis in this film. The way she uses stillness and silence, and just a few looks to convey everything. There are scenes where he’s (emotionally) all over the room and she’s just sitting there, sipping her tea, and then comes out with that one word — the line of the film for her is when he’s trying to turn his mood onto her and she just calmly goes, “Don’t pick a fight with me, I’ll destroy you.” She’s just like, “I know how to get you, and if you test me, I will slice right through you and leave you in a puddle on the floor.” That’s a strong character. Speak softly and carry a big stick.

6. Lupita Nyong’o, 12 Years a Slave

Another one of the best debut performances of the decade. Lupita Nyong’o burst onto the screen in a film full of heavyweight performances and delivers what might be the best among them. The film focuses more on moments with her character. Most people remember the soap scene, but there’s also the rape scene and the whipping scene, and that ending, where it’s just heartbreaking that he has to leave her behind to god knows what kind of future. It’s a performance that shows you how great an actress Lupita Nyong’o is, and really stands out as one of the more memorable of the decade.

5. Jacki Weaver, Animal Kingdom

This performance, though. Oh my god. You watch this film and in the first half, she’s just the sweet mother who cares for all her criminal sons who use her house as their base. And then she takes that turn midway through the movie, and you’re just like, “Oh fuck.” It’s a real slow burn of a performance, but it’s crazy good. This performance is the reason Weaver has been in so much stuff since then. This film helped break a lot of people, but her especially, she gives the performance of the film. It’s one of my favorite characters this decade. And you know it’s a great one, because they turned the film into a TV show and made her the main character of it.

4. Shailene Woodley, The Descendants

Another one of the most surprising and delightful debuts of the decade. No one (unless you watched teen dramas on ABC Family) knew who Shailene Woodley is. And now look where she is. And it’s all because of this performance. The film was sold on Alexander Payne and George Clooney, but I (and I imagine most people) came out of it going, “She gave the best performance in the whole damn thing.” Because at first it starts as — “wayward daughter, getting in trouble at boarding school, angry at her father, dating some idiot… I get it.” But then the layers peel away. There’s that incredible scene at the pool where he tells her the mother isn’t going to wake up from her coma, and she goes under the water to scream, and then you start to realize why she’s been behaving the way she is, and eventually she just becomes Clooney’s emotional support throughout the film. It’s a really strong debut, and a performance that I felt probably should have been nominated for more awards than it was. Still, look at where Shailene’s taken it. That’s the best thing that’s come from this performance.

3. Michelle Williams, Manchester by the Sea

Oh my god. It’s not that many scenes in all, but they’re some of the most powerful in the film. She’s just kinda there in the first half, and her scenes are built around… the incident, let’s just say. And then she’s largely gone after that until the moment at the end. But, just like I said with the Out of the Furnace scene… sometimes one scene is all you need. I felt so much from this character in those scenes that I didn’t need more. Michelle Williams is one of my favorite actresses because she is one of those who is always hitting doubles with all her work and then she gets a film like this every two or three years and it’s just a complete home run in every way. Affleck is in another world with his performance, but damn if Williams doesn’t travel up there for a nice weekend. She’s so good here.

2. Allison Janney, I, Tonya

The scene-stealing performance of the decade. Every scene with her is just incredible. And not even just the stuff with the bird. I’m talking about the whole thing, from the first time you see her, telling her four-year-old she’s skating like a ‘graceless bull dyke’, to chaperoning her date and immediately asking ‘you two fuck yet?’, to STABBING her daughter after throwing a knife at her in a fit of rage, to the moment in the middle where she just comes back like, “Okay, I think we can all agree there hasn’t been enough of me for a while,” which is perfect for that character, to the scene at the end where you think she’s gonna level with her daughter and not be awful for once, and it turns out she was just trying to record her to sell something to the tabloids. An absolute incredible performance that really could have been my #1 for the decade. Only…

1. Laurie Metcalf, Lady Bird

The other performance from 2017 that’s just incredible. This performance affected me so profoundly that there was really no alternative for this spot. She just feels like a mother. It just feels like — I don’t know how to explain it. I understand her character inside and out. And I know some people will see the performance as her arguing with Saoirse for the whole movie and then that one moment at the car… but that moment at the car is everything. And you get so many glimpses into her as a person outside of her daughter (who admittedly is the focal point of the story and through whose eyes we get most of the glimpses into the mother’s character) that I just totally understood it all based on what I got. I really love this performance, and while I understand why everyone gravitates to Janney’s and why Janney won the Oscar over her — I still would take this performance every time.

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One response

  1. Connor Olen

    Did I miss something or was Viola Davis in Fences not on the list at all?

    April 15, 2020 at 2:01 pm

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