In Emerald Fennell‘s Promising Young Woman (Focus, 12.25), Carey Mulligan plays Cassie Thomas, a dryly calculating and determined woman on a mission of appropriate vengeance against insensitive male assholes.
Is this “the performance of her career,” as N.Y Times profiler Kyle Buchanan (aka “”The Projectionist”) insists? It’s certainly an attention-getting one, and Mulligan is almost sure to be Oscar-nominated for a Best Actress trophy, and who knows? Maybe she’ll win it.
I happen to feel that the richest and most rewarding screen performance of Mulligan’s career came when she played Maud, a married woman who becomes drawn into the women’s suffrage movement in 1912 London, in Sarah Gavron‘s Suffragette (Focus Features, 10.23.15).
“Sarah Gavron‘s Suffragette (Focus Features, 10.23) is the shit — a near-certain Best Picture contender and a cast-iron guarantee that Carey Mulligan will be Best Actress-nominated for her subdued but deeply emotional, fully riveting performance as Maud Watts, a married factory worker and mother of a young son who becomes a women’s suffrage movement convert in early 1900s London, just as the militant phase (led by the Women’s Social and Political Union, or WSPU) begins to kick in.
“This is one top-tier, richly textured, throughly propulsive saga, and a good four or five times better than I expected it to be.
“The Suffragette trailers were promising enough but the people at Focus Features had done a brilliant job of tamping down any expectations on a word-of-mouth basis. I’d come to suspect, based on a lack of any palpable advance excitement, that it might turn out to be a decent, good-enough film that could possibly provide a springboard for Mulligan…maybe. Well, it’s much more than that, such that I felt compelled explain to Gavron at the after-party that I was fairly gobsmacked.
“Mulligan, looking appropriately hangdog for the most part, handles every line and scene like a master violinist. She’s always been my idea of a great beauty, but when she chooses to go there she has one of the saddest faces in movies right now. The strain, stress and suppressed rage of Maud’s life are legible in every look, line and gesture. Mulligan is fairly young (she just turned 30 last May) but she’s a natural old-soul type who conveys not just what Maud (a fictitious everywoman) is dealing with but the trials of 100,000 women before her, and without anything that looks like overt ‘acting.’ All actors “sell it,” of course, but the gifted ones make the wheel-turns and gear-shifts seem all but invisible.
“I was saying last night that her Suffragette perf is on the same footing with Mulligan’s career-making turn in An Education, but now, at 8:15 in the morning after less than six hours of shut-eye (and with my heart breaking over the realization that I’ve blown my shot at catching the 9 am screening of Spotlight), I’m thinking Maud is her signature role.”