I’m also scratching my head about the seemingly scripted Andrea Riseborough Best Actress campaign for her performance in To Leslie. Her performance as an all-but-hopeless drunk who takes forever to hit bottom is…well, the first term that comes to mind is “whew!” Yes, she’s raw, real, scalding — you can’t help but say “wow, Andrea really went for it…I mean, she doesn’t care if the audience likes her character or not.”

Except an actor isn’t going to get Oscar-nominated just for craft and honesty alone. He/she has to deliver a performance that has at least some degree of empathy. If you’re playing a drunk the audience has to be able to least tolerate the character in question. There has to be, you know, a certain palatable sadness or sympathy factor or dark charm.

For the first hour of To Leslie, Riseborough — an excellent actress — is so committed to the psychology of a pathetic, lying, disreputable drunk that you can’t stand her. Or at least I couldn’t. She’s “great”, yes, but Jesus, man…

And She Drinks A Little,” posted on 3.20.22 — an ironic date for me as I embraced sobriety exactly ten years earlier (3.20.12).

Having dealt with an alcoholic dad and coped with my own boozing issues until I embraced sobriety on 3.20.12, I’m not especially interested in films about alcoholics. Even without that history movies about drunks have always seemed more or less the same to me.

In Michael Morris‘s To Leslie, which recently screened at South by Southwest, Andrea Riseborough plays the 40ish Leslie, an all-but-hopeless drunk who’s nothing but rat poison to everyone she’s ever known or been close to, including her son.

The first 50 minutes or so are pure hell to get through, and then Leslie finally falls in with a couple of low-rent guys who run a 2nd-class motel. One of them, an amiable, low-key dude named Sweeney, is played by Marc Maron, and right away you’re asking yourself “is Sweeney a fucking idiot? Why has he offered Leslie a job as the motel’s maid? Why did he give her a chance? She’s obviously a lost cause and nothing but trouble.”

But he gives her a chance anyway, and after another relapse or two Leslie finally pulls out of the long downward spiral. But there’s so much ugliness in this film. I mean it’s really and truly awful.

Remember the opening scene in Bruce Beresford‘s Tender Mercies (’83), when Robert Duvall‘s Mac Sledge, a semi-retired country singer, is shouting and slugging someone and generally behaving like an abusive drunk? The ugly happens in one brief scene, and then Mac is on the mend for the rest of the film. But in To Leslie, Riseborough does the ugly for a whole damn hour before she starts to self-reflect and turn a corner. It struck me as too much to bear.

Riseborough’s performance is raw and scalding and frankly dispiriting. I believed her in every scene, but I also wanted to see her get hit by a truck. I didn’t believe Maron — I thought he was just laying on the charm with a shitkicker accent. But high marks for the other costars — Allison Janney, Andre Royo, Stephen Root, Owen Teague, etc.