To Leslie – Movie Review

To Leslie movie poster

Is Andrea Riseborough more deserving than Viola Davis of a Best Actress Oscar nomination? It’s a completely unfair question, and yet here we are, writing about the controversy (nay, conspiracy?) of the day. 

Andrea Riseborough gives a searing performance in the little seen To Leslie, in which she plays a downtrodden woman whose best years are definitely behind her. Ultimately the most memorable thing about To Leslie is that my wife’s name is also Leslie, though my Leslie is thankfully a little less worn into the gutters than the Leslie depicted here. But that’s not an entirely fair statement–no, not that bit about my wife–as director Michael Morris, who has helmed more than a few episodes from highly respected TV shows over the years, delivers a solid drama. And enables Riseborough to do what she does best: act the shit out of any role given to her.

Riseborough is one of those actresses who has been on the cusp of greater things for a few years now. She co-starred with Tom Cruise in Oblivion, but lately she’s been haunting the indie scene in stuff such as Possessor and Here Before (by the way, she’s excellent in both). It’s no real surprise that she absolutely thrives in To Leslie, which gives her the kind of role where she can just bite, chew, claw, and snarl her way through while tearing to shreds everything around her.

The screenplay by Ryan Binaco plays to her many strengths; Leslie is frustrating, maddening, awful, stupid, cunning, and sympathetic all at once–you want to punch her in the face but at the same time want to buy her a coffee and tell her to just chill the fuck out and take a breather.

So, yeah, not to compare, but I’m going to compare: Riseborough is completely deserving of her Oscar nomination. Who the hell cares whether a few celebs “illegally” went to bat for her–she’s awesome and deserves every ounce of praise thrown her way.

I wasn’t a huge fan of Davis’ The Woman King (I mean, it was okay, but…) but here’s the thing: 10 years from now, people aren’t going to remember either of these movies, but if they do, The Woman King stands out a little more distinctly, as a little more unique. To Leslie is a solid little drama, but you can’t fully escape the feeling that you’ve seen this movie before, in some way or another. It’s well done but unremarkable in that there have been and there will be in the future other movies about quasi-white trash women fucking over their chances left and right for two hours. There’s not much to see here.

It’s completely unfair to compare Riseborough and Davis, and it’s stupid to compare The Woman King and To Leslie. Better critics wouldn’t have even sunk to such lows to begin with, but I don’t mind wading in the gutters a bit: Davis chews scenes, but Riseborough is a force of nature.

For the record, Danielle Deadwyler was the one who got snubbed. Damn you, Andrea Riseborough! Damn you.

Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.

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