This year’s edition of the Toronto film festival ends this weekend. While six actors saw their Oscar odds soar, four women were showcased.
Reese Witherspoon (“Wild“)
Since winning the Oscar for “Walk the Line” back in 2005, the actress has had a string of flops (“How Do You Know,” “This Means War”) and near-misses (“Water for Elephants”) with just one indie hit (“Mud”) and one studio success (“Four Christmases”) to her name. However, this year, she stages a comeback with lead roles in both this film, which was helmed by Jean-Marc Vallee (“Dallas Buyers Club”), and another festival title, “The Good Lie.”
In “Wild,” she plays Cheryl Strayed who rashly decides — after years of reckless behavior, a heroin addiction and the destruction of her marriage — to hike a thousand miles on the Pacific Crest Trail solo. Along the way, she is haunted by memories of her mother Bobbi (Laura Dern) and makes peace with herself. Witherspoon, who also produced, is without vanity throughout, allowing herself to be shot in unflattering light and makeup. Academy voters love to reward pretty women who de-glam for meaty roles. And they adore a comeback story.
Julianne Moore (“Still Alice“)
This four-time Oscar also-ran just wowed the crowds in Toronto with her heartbreaking performance as a psychologist suffering from early Alzheimer’s. Sony Pictures Classics has snatched up the rights to this tearjerker and will make a late entry into the derby. Wash Westmoreland (“Quinceañera”) and Richard Glatzer adapted Lisa Genova‘s 2007 bestseller and co-directed a cast that also includes Alec Baldwin as a devoted husband and Kristen Stewart, Kate Bosworth and Hunter Parrish as her children.
Felicity Jones (“The Theory of Everything“)
As Jane Wilde, the long-suffering wife of scientist Stephen Hawking, Jones proves the promise that she showed in 2011’s “Like Crazy” and last year’s “The Invisible Woman.” As the film is based on Wilde’s memoir “Travelling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen,” it is not surprising that it tells her story too, including an emotional attachement to a music teacher (Charlie Cox) that threatens her marriage. The actress strikes just the right tone as a dutiful wife who is eventually overwhelmed by caring for her ailing husband and their children.
Jennifer Aniston (“Cake“)
This Emmy champ (“Friends”) has had great success with lighter film fare. In this indie film from Daniel Barnz (“Beastly”), she shines as a grieving mother coming to terms with the death of her son in a car crash that has left her both emotionally and physically scarred. If the film gets picked up for distribution by year’s end, expect Aniston to make a serious play.