Eight years ago Vera Farmiga‘s powerhouse performance in Debra Granik‘s Down To The Bone was as vital as air and water. She was the shit, Anna Magnani with ice-blue eyes, the toast of the town, etc. And then came those knockout performances in The Manchurian Candidate, Breaking and Entering, The Departed, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, Nothing But the Truth, Orphan and Up in the Air. And then performances in Henry’s Crime and Source Code and then her directorial debut, Higher Ground, in 2011. And now this dynamically talented hyphenate is doing…horror? The Conjuring plus the Bates Motel TV series gave me pause. How quickly this industry downgrades the brightest lights by casting them in factory crap.

Vera Farmiga, Hugh Dillon after invitational screening of Down to the Bone at Laemmle’s Music Hall — 1.12.06, 9:50 pm.

Heres my extremely-late-to-the-party review of Down To The Bone, posted in early ’06:

“I finally saw Debra Granik‘s Down to the Bone last night and got the wisdom of what almost every deep-focus movie journalist and critic has been saying since it (barely) opened in New York and Los Angeles nearly six weeks ago, which is that it’s grimly real but has something that doesn’t let up. This is a profoundly honed and life-like low-budgeter about a mom with two kids coping with drug addiction, and Vera Farmiga, who plays this withered young woman like she’s not playing her at all, is the absolute shit.

“Farmiga doesn’t perform — she becomes and burns through. She has the saddest eyes and the posture of a Siberian salt-mine worker, and she makes you feel the empty-soul fatigue of working a job at a supermarket check-out counter while nur- sing a serious cocaine habit and…Christ, stealing birthday money from her son in order to score, and then getting fired after she cleans up because the coke made her work faster.

“This is Anna Magnani in Open City reborn and time-tripped into something worse than mere poverty.

“I’ve been told Down to the Bone is the main reason Farmiga landed major roles in Anthony Minghella‘s upcoming Breaking and Entering and Martin Scorsese‘s The Departed…you can see why in a heartbeat.

Newsweek‘s David Ansen called Farmiga’s Down to the Bone performance a “revelation” and listed her performance among the best of the year, and of course the L.A. Film Critics voted her their ’05 Best Actress award. It was these responses that stirred me from slumber and led to last night’s wake-up.

“I am so late-to-the-party on this one I don’t want to talk about it. But I am and I’m sorry, and I wish I’d been able to say this before: this is a moderately weak year for female performances, and there’s no question that Farmiga’s performance in this bleak but mesmerizing film is absolutely gold standard.

Farmiga with Jasper Daniels (playing her older son) in Debra Granik’s Down to the Bone

“If we lived in a world that singled out the real jewels in the rough and paid less attention to industry hype and herd-mentality thinking, Vera Farmiga would right now be breathing down Reese Witherspoon‘s neck.

“But of course we don’t and she’s not, and Farmiga, giving it one last shot and laying it on the line, personally arranged for last night’s Down to the Bone screening at Laemmle’s Music Hall (and for guys like me to be invited)…and good for her. And cheers to Adrien Brody, an old friend of Farmiga’s (they co-starred in an ’02 film called Dummy) who dropped by to lend support.

“My apologies to publicist Steven Zeller, who tried to get me to see Down to the Bone early last fall. And a respectful tip of the hat to Farmiga’s ICM agent Chris Matthews, who also dropped by to show support and cheer things along.”