Back in 2011, a fur-donned Melissa Leo began to appear in all of the Hollywood trades with a bold message: “CONSIDER…” Leo was positioning herself for the Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her turn in David O. Russell’s The Fighter. By the time the “Consider… Melissa Leo” ads began to appear, Leo had already taken home the Golden Globe, the SAG, the Critics Choice, so why the push? The answer, mostly, was that she was goofing. As a woman in her 50s, she felt as though it was unfair how many of her younger peers got magazine covers and boundless attention, and she was eager to make a name for herself in the landscape. Regardless of whether credit can be given to her rogue campaign or the strength of her performance, it worked. She won the Oscar.
As this year’s Oscar race heats up, a quick scan across the social media accounts of some of the most famous people in Hollywood — Charlize Theron, Gwyneth Paltrow, Edward Norton, to name a few — shows a coordinated effort to highlight one particular role from the past calendar year: British character actress Andrea Riseborough’s performance in a little-known indie called To Leslie. “Hey Academy voters, Andrea Riseborough deserves an Oscar Nomination for her off the charts performance in To Leslie, a beautiful film directed by Michael Morris, that I’m worried is getting over looked. It’s on the screener app and available on ppv. She is mind-boggling. See it!” wrote Bradley Whitford. The repetition is suspicious, though Frances Fisher nipped that in the bud with an ominous but clearly worded: “Time is of the essence.”
Though there is some praise towards Michael Morris, the director, as well as Marc Maron, in a supporting lead, these posts share a direct appeal to Academy voters to vote for Riseborough specifically. It’s rare to see an ask that blatant. In response to people pointing out the odd and sudden timing around Riseborough’s campaign, actress Frances Fisher — once again — has been deep in the replies of many a skeptic.
It’s possible that the Riseborough call to action is so direct because actresses like Yeoh and Cate Blanchett or even Brooklyn’s finest Michelle Williams don’t really need the support of their famous friends to make a name for themselves. Though it’s also a bit puzzling that some of these people — many of whom I’ve never seen alongside Riseborough in a film or even in a social setting — are now labeled as close friends who want to help out a little. As far as I’m aware, celebrities rarely, if ever, go to bat for anything unless there’s money involved, and an indie like this — one that didn’t even clear $25,000 at the box office — likely doesn’t have that kind of marketing funding to help out. So everyone else in Hollywood is just down to share the load? Got it.
To her credit, Riseborough is a formidable talent and To Leslie is not a bad movie. It’s mostly a pretty good movie: a classic, conventional indie drama, the kind that succeeds at American festivals but never makes much of a splash. It lacks the marketing and groundswell of movies like Coda or even Get Out — small-budget(ish) films that broke out of the festival circuit to become much larger phenomena. Riseborough’s work, however, is often much better in smaller parts with more stylish directors: she’s great in Mandy, in Death of Stalin, even in the Best Picture-winning Birdman. Though she’s not a household name, she’s not unworthy of praise.
There’s a week until Oscar nominations are out, which means there’s one more week for Hollywood’s best and brightest to host home screenings of To Leslie. It wouldn’t be the craziest Oscars if Riseborough managed to snag a nomination — the craziest Oscars was when Will Smith slapped Chris Rock. Would it be annoying to see Riseborough surge ahead at the expense of Viola Davis in The Woman King? Maybe; but Davis has an Oscar already. Or what about Danielle Deadwyler in Till? Despite critical acclaim, Till’s awards momentum fizzled out as flashier challengers emerged. And what about Ana de Armas in Blonde? Let’s not think too hard on that one.
To Leslie does have one more secret weapon at its disposal: If the Marc Maron magic got Joker a Best Picture nomination and Joaquin Phoenix a Best Actor win, there’s no reason he can’t do it for Andrea Riseborough.