If you ask me, Hulu’s “The Great” was one of the rare bright spots of 2020, and it’s all thanks to Elle Fanning‘s career-best performance as Catherine the Great. Equal parts laugh-out-loud comedy and riveting drama, the period series was recognized at the Emmys in two major categories: Best Comedy Directing and Best Comedy Writing. It lost both to “Schitt’s Creek” as part of its unprecedented sweep. With awards conversations now focusing on the upcoming Golden Globes, I’ve laid out four reasons below why Fanning deserves her first-ever nomination for “The Great.”
1. Genre-bending performance
As Catherine the Great, the Empress of Russia, Fanning shows off her range by playing one of the most unconventional characters of the year. Whether she’s weeping in a corner, laughing at her dimwitted husband Emperor Peter (Nicholas Hoult), or plotting to take power from the Russian regime, this kind of character was tailor-made for awards. And hey, Olivia Colman won a Golden Globe for portraying a heightened royal figure in “The Favourite,” which just so happened to be written by Tony McNamara, showrunner for “The Great.”
2. She plays a real person, sort of
“The Great” bills itself as an “occasional” true story that straddles a fine line between history and fantasy. There’s nothing Hollywood Foreign Press Association members love more than when actors portray real people. Case in point, all of these folks won just last year: Colman as Queen Elizabeth II (“The Crown”), Russell Crowe as Roger Ailes (“The Loudest Voice”), Michelle Williams as Gwen Verdon (“Fosse/Verdon”), Stellan Skarsgard as Boris Shcherbina (“Chernobyl”), Patricia Arquette as Dee Dee Blanchard (“The Act”), Renee Zellweger as Judy Garland (“Judy”) and Taron Egerton as Elton John (“Rocketman”). Will Fanning be next?
Fanning truly shines in the many scenes in which her character acts defiantly and breaks the rules. In fact, the entire premise of the show is built on defiance as Catherine seeks to overthrow her husband and rule Russia herself. Every time she acquires a new member of her coup d’état team, Catherine’s sly smirk elicits cheers from the viewing audience — we’re all shouting “Huzzah!” from our couches. The last time TV viewers fell in love with a character this rebellious was June/Offred on “The Handmaid’s Tale,” and Elisabeth Moss took home a Golden Globe for it.
4. It’s time
At 22 years old, the actress has been working steadily her entire life, but she’s never been recognized with a major industry award. Fanning did earn a SAG ensemble bid alongside the cast of “Trumbo” (2015) and scored three Critics’ Choice nominations as Best Young Actor/Actress for “Somewhere” (2010), “Super 8” (2011) and “Ginger & Rosa” (2012). But a Golden Globe nomination would certainly be icing on the cake for this actress’ stand-out work as Catherine the Great.
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