Tuesday, February 17, 2015

A Theory on Why Patricia Arquette Will Win Best Supporting Actress

Patricia Arquette
With the Oscars closing in, it's time to finalize the votes for who is likely going to win the top prizes. While I have already discussed the three pronged Best Picture race (Selma, Birdman, Boyhood), but now it is time to get into the other big categories. Over the next few days, I will be sharing quick pieces on who is likely to win in each of the major categories as well as any discussion of a potential upset. Coming up is a piece on why Patricia Arquette (Boyhood) is pretty much going to walk away with the Best Supporting Actress trophy on Oscar night.

Emma Stone (Birdman)
Laura Dern (Wild)
Keira Knightley (The Imitation Game)
Meryl Streep (Into the Woods)

Here is a simple truth: everyone has a mother. Whether you grew up with her or never knew her, she gave birth to you. While this may seem like the broadest reasoning behind Patricia Arquette's potential win for Best Supporting Actress, it makes sense to why she has stood out among the competition. Yes, Laura Dern plays a mother in Wild, but her role is too secondary compared to Arquette's. There isn't a direct view of the mother's plight to raise a child, especially in circumstances that are as challenging as hers. Throughout the film, she marries rude men, never gets thanks from her kids and is often overshadowed by the father. It is essentially the tough mother roll that cinches the deal.

There's an odd thing about Boyhood that becomes abundantly clear upon revisiting the film. For all of the merits that the mother brought to the film, she has a very limited screen time in terms of doing something fun with the child. Whether this was more to highlight the significant points in the boy's life or just coincidence, it adds to the overall drive of the film. She is the ones who has to make the tough decisions. Even in the earliest moments of the film when the children within minutes of the film's start to move, she is considered somewhat of a derogatory figure. 

Parenthood is a complex thing to capture on screen and it is even harder to do so in a way that embraces the highs and lows without turning her into the hero. In fact, the father is the cool one who you'd want to spend time with. The mother is stuck doing the dirty work and trying to turn the son into a raised right man. Yes, she makes mistakes and the lack of glamour that comes with it adds an appealing subtext to her performance. We rarely see her happy because she makes ultimate sacrifices where nobody else does. There's several reasons to be sympathetic for her because of this, even if she doesn't factor too much into the actual narrative beyond being a hard worker.

However, the moment that seals the deal is in the third act when she is forced to say goodbye. Up until this point, she has seemed somewhat distant. She has been responsible, but she hasn't necessarily shown direct influence on the son in ways that were immediately positive. It is the moment where her peril becomes clear. As her son packs up to move to college, she begins to cry. She moved from a large house to a small apartment and is now feeling empty. In a moment of ventilation, she opens up to her son in ways that strike a chord. For all of the fun moments, mom received the thankless task of being the boring one who did the right thing, even if it didn't always receive acclaim.

Which is why it seems integral to discuss mothers more generally here. Everyone has one and all relationships are different. However, the struggle and desires of the mother to raise their child right is a thing that will always be prevalent. It is what the film does best and likely why Arquette has been a front runner while fellow Best Supporting Actor nominee Ethan Hawke has remained largely ignored. Of course, it could just be that Boyhood has been so captivating to audiences since its release and is just a great performance. Still, there's some truth in her vulnerability that makes her too much of a front runner to even consider a threat.

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