Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Birthday Take: Saorise Ronan in "Brooklyn" (2015)

Saoirse Ronan in Brooklyn
Welcome to The Birthday Take, a column dedicated to celebrating Oscar nominees and winners' birthdays by paying tribute to the work that got them noticed. This isn't meant to be an exhaustive retrospective, but more of a highlight of one nominated work that makes them noteworthy. The column will run whenever there is a birthday and will hopefully give a dense exploration of the finest performances and techniques applied to film. So please join me as we blow out the candles and dig into the delicious substance.

The Facts

Recipient: Saoirse Ronan
Born: April 12, 1994 (22 years old)
Nomination: Best Actress - Brooklyn (nominated) as Ellis

The Take

It seems a little bizarre to call Saoirse Ronan a breakout star in 2015. While it is true that she isn't a household name, and people still make that unfortunate "How do you pronounce her name?" joke, she has been making an impressive name for herself over the past decade since her breakout role in Atonement. One doesn't need to look too far for some charismatic work in her resume. Even in 2014, she gave a memorable performance in The Grand Budapest Hotel as a woman with a Mexico-shaped birthmark on her face. To say the least, she is someone who has been busy, even if we haven't paid attention.

However, it's interesting to judge how overwhelming the praise was for her work in Brooklyn. Suddenly, she was considered a mature performer who gave a complicated performance that once pitted her as the potential Best Actress winner at this year's ceremony. There's not a lot to refute the honor, especially as she played a very insular character whose struggle to find acceptance in America after immigrating from Ireland had a complicated subtext at every turn. Her timidity as she partook in American activities helped to create a rich and wholesome atmosphere. Compared to other big winners of the year, such as Room and Spotlight, Brooklyn wasn't a film with too much on its mind. Still, it was the heartwarming movie that brought in a demographic not recognized by the masculine films like The Revenant, The Martian, or even Mad Max: Fury Road. To say the least, it was part of one of the most effectively diverse Best Picture years since 2011.

But what makes Ronan's work in Brooklyn anything resembling a "breakout" performance? After all, it was likely that The Host was intended to be her moment a few years back. Comparatively, Brooklyn didn't grab the zeitgeist in quite the aggressive manner. The only real irony is that Brooklyn is planning to transition into a BBC series sometime next year, but not with her in a central role. Of course, it does help that she was part of a genuinely charming cast who all played their roles very well. It was a civilized bunch that used wit to solve their problems. Still, the movie has a certain safeness in its charm. Nothing traumatic happens throughout the running time. Still, it makes for good wholesome cinema that hardly comes across as "mature" as her breakout status would suggest.

It is difficult to pin why this is her breakout film after a series of memorable performances. However, I am hoping that this lands Ronan plenty of great roles in the near future. Her gaze is one of those beautiful cinematic tools that convey deeper emotion beyond what her words could suggest. It's her softness that suggests something complicated. Yet she still has the charisma that makes Brooklyn into something beyond a mediocre Nicholas Sparks knock-off. What makes this her breakout role? I am not entirely sure, but I think it will hopefully at least get people to recognize how charming she is as a performer. She has done better roles (such as Hanna), but it's fine that she has gotten an Oscar nomination here. If anything, it makes me hopeful that another one's not too far off for her.

As a whole, I am sure that Brooklyn is going to be one of the more unassumingly divisive films from this past year's Best Picture line-up. It's not because it's bad, but more because in a line-up with such aggressive artistic merit, it feels familiar. It isn't a bad thing, but Ronan gives a performance that actually doesn't have the iconic moment that earned Brie Larson the win for Room. She is merely a girl in love, conflicted about her life in America and in Ireland. That may be enough to make a good movie, but I'm sure that it'll fade into one of the more obscure Best Picture nominees of the decade in time. Not because it's bad, but because of how unassuming it is. Still, I am sure that there's a chance that people will remember it if this is in fact Ronan's breakout film and she has more coming. One can only hope that's true.

No comments:

Post a Comment