When it comes to awards season, the Best Supporting Actress race can often be the most unpredictable category. If there are enough women vying for a nomination in a leading role, sometimes studios will opt instead to enter their candidate in the supporting categories. It causes some confusion ever year, with Alicia Vikander, a definite lead in The Danish Girl, winning last, and Viola Davis running in that category this year for Fences. But one actor who definitely deserves some supporting love this year has been sadly overlooked: Greta Gerwig, who deserves some serious Oscar attention for her roles in 20th Century Women and Jackie.
Set in Santa Barbara, California in 1979, 20th Century Women tells the story of hippie mom Dorothea (Annette Bening, who deserves her own awards recognition), struggling to connect with her teenage son Jamie. She enlists a few friends and confidants to help "raise" him into a good person, including Abbie, a 20-something, photographer, punk, feminist with fire-engine red hair played by the wonderful Gerwig. Abbie's role in Jamie's upbringing is crucial, and Jamie seems shocked by her experiences and opinions; as a result, he learns the most from what she has to say.
Abbie's storyline ventures into territories like heartbreak, motherhood, medical trauma, and what possessions mean in our lives, and holding that all together is an amazing performance from Gerwig. Still somewhat of an indie darling despite acting for years, Gerwig broke into the mainstream a few years ago by writing and starring in the black and white indie comedy Frances Ha.
Since then, she's both kept up her indie film credits and branched out into TV with shows like The Mindy Project, How I Met Your Dad, and Portlandia. She's also appeared in a few major movies, including 20th Century Women and another Oscar contender, Jackie. In the latter film, Gerwig appears alongside Natalie Portman as Nancy Tuckerman, the White House social secretary who worked closely with Jackie Kennedy.
Since the environment in which Jackie takes place is so heavily male-dominated, Gerwig's role as the First Lady's confidant and friend make the film pass the Bechdel test. And more than that, Gerwig brings a little bit of humor to the overall intense film, and her performance is a true highlight. Unfortunately, her role in Jackie is likely too small to grab Oscar voters' attention, especially when Portman's performance is so grand and all encompassing. But that doesn't mean Gerwig has no chance at getting a nomination this year, because her work in 20th Century Women has a shot at getting noted.
But it won't be an easy road. Gerwig has largely been ignored by major nominating groups since the awards cycle kicked in in December. She was nominated for playing Abbie by the Alliance of Women Film Journalists, the Broadcast Film Critics Association, and a number of other critics organizations, but she was snubbed by the Golden Globes and the Screen Actors Guild. Admittedly, there were a ton of other amazing supporting female performances this year, so the fact that Gerwig has struggled to gain honors is understandable. But I'm hoping that the Oscars choose to nominate her and celebrate her fantastic work in Women or Jackie.