As actresses in a supporting role, these women have brought forth a rare sense of courage, intensity, honesty, vulnerability, warmth and strength on screen. These actors have revitalised ( if not redefined) the term ‘acting’ and breathed a new life into their characters. Viola Davis shifts the gravity of film through her powerful performance in the second half of Fences. Naomie Harris plays a crack-addicted mother in Moonlight and still forces you to empathise with her character. Michelle Williams has barely few minutes on-screen, yet she manages to hold her own in one of the most heartbreaking scenes in Manchester by the Sea. Octavia Spencer plays Dorothy Vaughn with utmost sincerity. Her character in Hidden Figures is battling race and gender prejudices at NASA, yet Octavia instils this character with much-needed levity and humour. Here’s is the list of nominees competing in Best Actress in a Supporting Role category:
Viola Davis ( Fences): This is Viola’s third Oscar nomination. She has got two nominations before for her role in Doubt ( 2009) and The Help ( 2012). In Fences, she is playing Rose, a garbageman’s wife who has got used to living life in the shadows of her short-tempered husband. Rose knows her boundaries and limitations as a housewife. She has no delusions of a more comfortable or better life. Yet, she goes on to live life to the fullest. Viola doesn’t make this character look weak or insignificant. Instead, she displays a sense of strength through long silences and variant moods. There is a scene of an argument between Rose (Viola) and her husband Troy (Denzel Washington), where her character bursts out at her husband with all the anger and pain from suffering for too long in silence.
Michelle Williams (Manchester by the Sea)
Unlike Viola Davis, Michelle Williams is not given too much time on screen. In fact, her role barely lasts few minutes during 2-3 scenes on screen. However, we see her character undergoing change and that transformation creates a wonderful opportunity for Michelle to ‘act’. Michelle Williams doesn’t disappoint. She raises the intensity of that scene with able support from Casey Affleck. This awkward meeting between an estranged couple who got separated after a tragedy is an overwhelming moment of emotional climax.
Naomie Harris (Moonlight)
Moonlight isn’t about women. It’s a story of masculinity, identity and homosexuality. Naomie Harris has a small but significant part in it. It’s only through her character’s ignorance and cruelty, you get to sympathise with ‘Little’ – a precocious black boy growing up in a poor neighbourhood in Miami. She lets out her frustration of a lonely and failed life on her only son. It’s heartening to see how the relationship between mother and son grows and changes over the years. In one of the final scenes in the movie, Naomie displays her tender side. In that sense, she is instrumental in our understanding the dilemma and loneliness of young ‘Little’.
Octavia Spencer (Hidden Figures)
Hidden Figures is a story about three black female mathematicians who are integral in getting America’s first astronauts into space. Octavia Spencer has already won an Oscar for her role in The Help. Octavia plays Dorothy Vaughn who is an acting supervisor of African-American computers at NASA. Dorothy is constantly denied promotion but is determined to do well despite prevalent prejudices existing at the workplace. Octavia brings a sense of confidence and levity to Dorothy’s character. In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Octavia talks about her character saying, ” She is a mother and highly educated, but the society is telling her that she can only be ‘so much’ even though she is doing the job. So I had to step out of the real world and sort of think of how would I feel in that place.”
Nicole Kidman (Lion)
Nicole Kidman in yet another endearing performances of her career plays Sue Brierley, an Australian woman who adopts two children from India. The actor displays an overpowering sense of intensity and warmth in the scene where she explains to her grown-up son Saroo ( Dev Patel) about her motive behind adoption. ” I could have kids. We chose not to have kids. We wanted the two of you in our lives. That’s what we chose. That’s one of the reasons why I fell in love with your Dad,” Nicole just pours out her heart in this engaging conversation between mother and son. Nicole, never for a moment fails to hold your attention as a mother trying to persuade her son from leaving her home.