The Oscars Will Snub Elizabeth Banks For 'Love & Mercy', But Here's Why They Shouldn't
Hear ye, hear ye, the time has come, my friends, to argue awards season snubs and surprises. With the SAG and Golden Globe nominations already released, all eyes are on Oscar. Who will be nominated? Who deserves it? Who doesn’t? For your consideration, I present Elizabeth Banks in Love & Mercy . The little-seen film, released in June, tells a two-fold story of Brian Wilson, one of the founding members of The Beach Boys. In the 1960s, Wilson is played by Paul Dano. In the 1980s, when Wilson’s mental health issues had escalated, he is played by John Cusack. Banks accompanies Cusack in the '80s side of the story as Melinda Ledbetter, Wilson’s eventual wife, who was a key player in the lawsuits that would eventually release the musician from the grasp of a predatory doctor.
Banks’ portrayal of Ledbetter is unlike anything fans have ever seen her do. In the past, she's been known for her hilarious turns in films like Pitch Perfect, and on TV shows like 30 Rock and Scrubs. Her intricate character work can be seen in the way she brought Effie Trinket to life in The Hunger Games series, and her distinctive voice can be heard in The Lego Movie, and on Family Guy and American Dad. But while Banks nails every one of those roles, none of those parts scream “dramatic actor.” Which is why Banks’ dramatic turn in Love & Mercy deserves some awards recognition.
The star's portrayal of Ledbetter presents her as a complex woman: vulnerable, strong, funny, and capable. It’s a very natural performance that reveals a side of Banks that was hiding under all of the silly caricatures and heavily costumed roles she's known for. In Love & Mercy, she leaves her comfort zone of raunchy comedies and stylized dystopias, and as a result, delivers an awards-worthy performance.
Yet it's unlikely she'll get much recognition for it. In a great surprise, this year has seen a ton of great roles for women, and the actors who play them are snatching up nominations left and right. Among those repeatedly nominated have been Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara for Carol, Saoirse Ronan for Brooklyn, Brie Larson for Room, Alicia Vikander for both The Danish Girl and Ex Machina, just to name a few. There are so many contenders that there's even a running tally of actors this year who have, so far, been shut out of the awards race. Charlize Theron has yet to earn a major nomination for her extraordinary performance as Furiosa in Mad Max Fury Road; Charlotte Rampling has been left off of many nominations lists after her stunning turn in 45 Years, to the shock of many. There's been a surplus of quality female years in 2015, while that means great things for women in Hollywood, it also means that worthy, but little-seen, contenders like Banks might get left off the list.
That doesn't mean a nomination is out of the question, but it’s going to be tough for Banks to make a dent in the list. Still, even if the Academy ignores her wonderful achievement in Love & Mercy, casting directors should take note of her seriously impressive dramatic chops and cast her in more serious roles. Banks is long overdue for a dramatic crossover; I, for, one thought she would have been a better (and more age appropriate) choice to play the titular role in David O. Russell’s Joy . Yet should Hollywood continue to ignore her dramatic abilities, Banks' budding directing career means that she could make the totally brilliant move and cast herself in a great, serious part. Men have done it for years — why not Elizabeth Banks?
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