Bryce Dallas Howard gives one of the strongest performances of her career in “Nosedive,” the first episode of “Black Mirror’s” third season. Playing Lacey Pound, a woman living in a world where people can rate each other through their phones, Howard’s raw, disquieting performance digs deep to reflect our own social media anxieties.
In “Nosedive,” Howard gets the kind of showcase performance few others have on “Black Mirror.” Lacey is a ratings-obsessed woman who is desperate to raise her ranking so that she is able to afford rent for her expensive dream home. When her best friend calls and asks to be her maid of honor at her wedding, Lacey sees an opportunity for high-ranking members of society to boost her ratings and live her dreams. Yet, as the title of the episode suggests, her transparent ambitions lead to a brutal nosedive.
Throughout the episode, Howard’s Lacey puts on a brave, smiling face, hoping to impress those around her even as her world comes crumbling down. Her hellbent desire to be liked eventually turns her into a mad woman, as those around her distance themselves and send her rating to unspeakably lows. As she dives further and further into a tailspin, Howard does a remarkable job of showing how even those with the most innocent of intentions can be led down a dark path and driven to desperate measures.
Howard received acclaim for her performance, having been nominated at the Screen Actors Guild Awards, a first for “Black Mirror.” While she previously won a SAG Award as part of the ensemble of “The Help” in 2012, her recognition for “Black Mirror” was her first individual nomination from the guild. Though Howard lost the award to Sarah Paulson (“The People v. O.J. Simpson”), the attention from her acting peers certainly suggests she’s in the running at the upcoming Emmys.
In the highly competitive Best Limited Series/Movie Actress category at the Emmys, Howard will contend against other strong contenders including Jessica Lange and Susan Sarandon from “Feud: Bette and Joan,” Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon from “Big Little Lies,” Felicity Huffman from “American Crime,” Carrie Coon from “Fargo,” Oprah Winfrey from “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” and Lauren Graham from “Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life.” Howard could also face internal competition, with other “Black Mirror” stars Gugu-Mbatha Raw and Mackenzie Davis campaigning here.
Getting into Limited Series/Movie Actress could be a challenge for Howard with so many other talented stars in the mix, but her dominant performance in just 60 minutes of “Black Mirror” ranks her among the best of the year. In a world where Twitter followers and Instagram likes form the basis of success, Howard deserves “high ratings” at the Emmys for reflecting the dark future that may lie ahead of us.
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