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For Your Consideration: 5 Overlooked Supporting Actresses Who Deserve Some Oscar Season Attention

by Oliver Lyttelton
November 20, 2013 3:08 PM
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Mickey Sumner Frances Ha

Mickey Sumner - "Frances Ha"
We can't be the only ones hit by a mounting wave of dread when we learn that the offspring of a rock star has decided to move into the movies. And that probably went double for Mickey Sumner, the daughter of Sting and Trudie Styler, given the questionable nature of her dad's forays into acting. But fortunately, Sumner demonstrated that she's more Duncan Jones than Lily Collins with a marvelous performance in Noah Baumbach's "Frances Ha" that, while overshadowed by co-star Greta Gerwig, is certainly deserving of recognition. Sumner plays Sophie, the best friend of Gerwig's Frances, and if nothing else, the film remains striking for the way that it focuses so tightly on a female friendship. Again, Sumner and Gerwig have an instant shorthand that makes them feel like they've been BFFs in real life forever, and their interplay early on is positively joyful. It's absolutely the most central relationship in a film that sometimes risks being a one-woman-show, but that would understate Sumner's contribution: Sophie is more than just Frances' sidekick, but a young woman who's growing into adulthood at a pace that her pal can't match. She makes enough of an impression early on that you feel her absence as keenly as Frances does, and it's always a sign of a great performance when you feel it even in the frames of a film when the actor isn't present. And when Sophie returns, roaringly drunk and borderline self-destructive, Sumner shows all the insecurities and uncertainties of someone who'd earlier seemed the self-confident flipside of the title character. On the back of this funny, warm, complex turn, we look forward to seeing an awful lot more from Sumner in the future.

Adepero Oduye 12 Years A Slave

Adepero Oduye - "12 Years A Slave"
Bar Brad Pitt's distractingly saintly late-game cameo, almost every performer in "12 Years A Slave" could make a strong argument for picking up an acting nomination: it's an ensemble of such depth and diversity that an Oscar-nominated actress can crop up almost unnoticed in the opening scenes (yep, that's "Beasts of the Southern Wild" star Quvenzhane Wallis as Solomon Northrup's daughter early on). The film will undoubtedly and deservedly lead to nominations for Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Fassbender and, in the Supporting Actress category, breakout star Lupita Nyong'o, but there's plenty more where they came from. In terms of supporting actresses in the film alone, Sarah Paulson continues to demonstrate what an asset she is to filmmakers with her loathsome, but recognizably human mistress, and Alfre Woodard risks walking away with the whole film with an enormously impressive one-scene cameo, one of the movie's highlights. But if we had to pick one other actress to join Nyong'o as a nominee, it'd be Adepero Oduye. The actress deserved awards attention a few years ago for her role in Sundance breakout "Pariah," whch sadly didn't arrive (though she picked up an Spirit Award nomination), and her role in "12 Years A Slave" is an unshowy one: she plays Eliza, a freewoman captured alongside Ejiofor's Northrup, and separated by Paul Giamatti's demonic slave trader from her children. It would be easy for the part to be nothing but weeping and wailing, but Oduye does a remarkable job with only a few short scenes in painting the true depths of Eliza's despair, while also going toe-to-toe with Ejiofor as she points out the kind of complacency he falls into early on. Being smaller than Nyong'o's part, it likely won't figure in anywhere, but hopefully it'll remind filmmakers of Oduye's talent going forward.

Kaitlyn Dever Short Term 12

Kaitlyn Dever - "Short Term 12"
It's the mark of serious talent when someone can give two great performances, and it's only well after the fact that you realize they came from the same actress. That's certainly the case with Kaitlyn Dever: it was only as we came to write this piece that we discovered that the 16-year-old actress who's so impressive in Destin Daniel Cretton's film "Short Term 12" was the same one who, a few years back, gave a turn of impressive maturity and power on TV show "Justified" (she was Loretta, who comes under the questionable guardianship of Margo Martindale's Mags in the series' second season). Since then, Dever's popped up in the likes of "Bad Teacher," "J. Edgar" and "The Spectacular Now" in between her regular series gig on "Last Man Standing," but it's as troubled teen Jayden in "Short Term 12" that really cemented just how huge she's going to be. She's the sort of inciting incident in the script, the new arrival at the foster care facility who appears to be the biggest challenge that the staff have yet faced, and who ends up having more than a little in common with Brie Larson's Grace. Unlike many child stars, there's very little in the way of affectation or precociousness in Dever's performance: she's prickly and stand-offish in a very authentically teenage way, (sadly) mature beyond her years but still a little girl at heart. Dever's ferocity (and she's legitimately frightening in places) means she doesn't just become the victim that she might have been, but at the same time, your heart breaks for her. Among an extraordinary cast of newcomers, almost no-one made the impression that Dever did, and we can't wait to see what she comes up with in Lynn Shelton's upcoming "Laggies."

Honorable Mentions: Beyond these five, and those who are more likely to get nominations, there's still plenty of others worthy of mentioning. Maria Bello and Viola Davis both do sterling work among the strong ensemble of "Prisoners," while Alexandra Maria Lara was a standout, even without much to do, in Ron Howard's "Rush." Kristin Scott Thomas had more fun than almost anyone on screen as the nightmarish matriarchy in "Only God Forgives," while Reem Abdullah impressed as a much gentler kind of mother in "Wadjda."

From Sundance, there was excellent work from Maggie Siff in "Concussion," Ellen Page in "Touchy Feely" and the latest in a terrific run of performances from Rooney Mara in "Ain't Them Bodies Saints" (whose turn in "Side Effects" straddles the border between lead and supporting, but is equally praiseworthy). While overlooked by some, we thought Scottish actress Joanna Vanderham was hugely impressive in "What Maisie Knew," while teen blogging queen Tavi Gevinson also turned our heads in "Enough Said." Finally, French actress Pauline Burlet was a stand-out in "The Past," and Emma Watson proved she could put Hermione behind her when she walked away with the final act of "The Bling Ring." Any others you think deserve a mention? Let us know below. 

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  • Jinny | December 13, 2013 3:29 PMReply

    Where the HELL is Lea Seydoux on this list?!!!

  • Zoe79 | December 8, 2013 6:45 AMReply

    Lea Seydoux, absolutely. She was incredible in Blue is the Warmest Color.

  • ali | December 5, 2013 11:59 PMReply

    Kaitlyn Dever is a talented actress - I think she has a great chance to be the next big thing along the lines of Jennifer Lawrence. Even her work on Last Man Standing, while limited, is pretty good

  • Kris | December 4, 2013 6:58 PMReply

    Juno Temple in Afternoon Delight, Julianne Moore in Don Jon and Kristen Scott Thomas in Only God Forgives

  • Brad | November 27, 2013 12:58 PMReply

    I thought Nicole Kidman was riveting and commanding in Stoker. On paper I think it was a rather confusing character but she really did extraordinary things with it, as well as ensuing a subtle sense of humor and ravishing sexuality.

  • sandylieberson | November 26, 2013 7:53 AMReply

    Oliver....good take on Invisible Woman.
    can't understand why this has been overlooked.....and don't forget about Felicity Jones!

  • Steve Warren | November 26, 2013 12:47 AMReply

    The Robert Redford-Julie Christie pairing in The Company You Keep was a letdown, but Susan Sarandon gave one of her best performances in the early part of the film.

  • Pablo | November 23, 2013 4:38 PMReply

    More noise should be made for Shailene Woodley in The Spectacular Now, she was really impressive. And it's ridiculous that Sally Hawkins isn't considered a serious contender in this race, especially since the Academy owes her for Happy-Go-Lucky.

  • bailey | November 23, 2013 3:01 PMReply

    I'd love to hear how "Cassandra's Dream" was "inexcusable." What a weird word choice.

  • Drew | November 23, 2013 2:29 PMReply

    Emma Watson - THE BLING RING

  • Philippe | November 23, 2013 2:08 PMReply

    Happy you brought up Joanna at the tail end... That performance was remarkable.

  • Sure | November 21, 2013 4:09 PMReply

    Sally hawkins was really good but her accent was far from flawless

  • LB | November 21, 2013 9:56 AMReply

    Can't believe Sally Hawkins is being overlooked, all eyes seem to be on Blue Jasmine and there's no doubting the brilliance of her work, she is equally as good as Cate B. Consequently it's ridiculous that Julia Roberts is a serious contender, the film's mediocre and her performance just okay, surely the consideration is based on other shallower factors, but I've found in the past that the academy acts with some integrity in the supporting nominations.

  • CP | November 21, 2013 9:47 AMReply

    Lea Seydoux for BITWC. What a transformation! The girl is a chameleon. Her performance was outstanding, generous, committed. I can't say enough about it. She was a great counterbalance to Adele's all consuming performance.

  • ETHAN HUNT | November 25, 2013 11:27 PM

    that character lea seydoux played in Mi4
    was offered to Noomi Rapace
    she turned it down to do 'Sherlock holmes 2'

  • LB | November 23, 2013 6:04 AM

    I wonder if the academy will be able to acknowledge the performances without feeling the shadow of the backstage drama.

  • CP | November 21, 2013 11:07 AM

    We're talking about performances right? Not the behind-the-scenes drama.

  • LB | November 21, 2013 9:57 AM

    Yeah what a transformation, from gracious Cannes Best actress winner to bitter turncoat.

  • sara | November 21, 2013 3:07 AMReply

    Lea Seydoux. Blue is the Warmest Color. Extraordinary range. She created a new universe with the character of Emma.

  • Dominic | November 20, 2013 9:38 PMReply

    Kristin Scott Thomas in Only God Forgives is EVERYTHING

  • oogle monster | November 20, 2013 9:31 PMReply

    What about the girl who plays Jordan Baker in The Great Gatsby? She's amazing!

  • DG | November 20, 2013 9:24 PMReply

    Would Lea Seydoux be considered supporting for Blue is the Warmest Color? Maybe not, then again she is sort of secondary to Adele. If so I vote for her

  • Kiki | November 20, 2013 6:07 PMReply

    I'm glad you guys mentioned Adepero Oduye, she was so incredible in 12 Years. I only cried once while watching the movie (broke down as soon as it was over and sobbed for about 10 minutes...), and it was during one of her scenes. Just tore my heart to pieces.

    I can't believe Kristin Scott Thomas is not considered to be in the running for Only God Forgives, she was the only good thing in that movie, and she was amazing.

  • newyorker | November 20, 2013 4:29 PMReply

    also i think it's time the oscars get some new categlory. like best voice for a film, like best male voice and best female voice. like this year the noms for best male voice could be
    Billy Crystal for Monsters University, Christoph Waltz for Epic, Samuel L. Jackson for Turbo, Steve Carell for Despicable Me 2 & James Caan for Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs 2, and for best female voice the noms could be Scarlett Johansson for Her, Beyonce for Epic, Kristen Bell for Frozen, Helen Mirren for Monsters University & Kristen Wiig for Despicable Me 2.
    they should also get a categlory for best young actor/actresses, like what the critic choice movie award got.

  • adrien brody was amazing in ''Harrisons Flowers'' | November 25, 2013 11:32 PM

    James Caan was a scene stealer in 'DETACHMENT'

  • Dean | November 20, 2013 3:45 PMReply

    Look, it's nice to consider Johansson, but there's no way her vocal only performance is going to stand a chance against the fantastic physical acting of the other women mentioned here.

  • | November 20, 2013 3:42 PMReply

    Shailene Woodley – The Spectacular Now
    Lea Seydoux – Blue Is The Warmest Color

    No shot, but also great:
    Annika Wedderkopp – The Hunt
    Xenia Kalogeropoulou – Before Midnight
    Romina Mondello – To The Wonder
    Alice Englert – Ginger And Rosa
    Eva Mendes – The Place Beyond The Pines

  • TOM JORDACHE | November 21, 2013 7:55 AM

    An underrated actors’ director,
    Malick draws a firecracker of a turn from Romina Mondello as Marina’s best friend

    http://www.empireonline dot com/reviews/review.asp?FID=137997

  • 546754 | November 20, 2013 3:48 PM

    Romina Mondello in To the Wonder? Wow. Yeah, that was...uh...some kind of spectacular performance she gave...

  • | November 20, 2013 3:44 PM

    "â€" should be "--"

    Don't know why that happened.“

  • PEDRO | November 20, 2013 3:35 PMReply

    You have forgotten to mention the incredible tour de force perfomance by Pauline Burlet as Lucie in Asghar Farhadi's "The Past".

  • Newyorker | November 20, 2013 3:30 PMReply

    10 actresses i think should get nominated for best supporting actress, but i think they might get overlooked are
    1-Julianne Moore-Carrie
    2-Ashley Benson-Spring Breakers
    3-Taissa Farmiga-The Bling Ring
    4-Andrea Riseborough-Disconnect
    5-Melonie Diaz-Fruitvale Station
    6-Pink-Thanks For Sharing
    7-Eva Mendes-Place Beyond The Pines
    8-Jenni Rivera(RIP)-Filly Brown
    9-Reese Witherspoon-Mud
    10-Jacki Weaver-Parkland

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