“Promising Young Woman” brought Carey Mulligan back to the Oscars 11 years after she first contended for “An Education.” In this new film, Mulligan plays Cassie Thomas, a 30-year-old in what seems to be a spiraling downward trajectory of drunkenness, on-night stands and the shame of living with her parents. Eventually the darkly comedic film takes a turn as it is revealed that Cassie is avenging the rape of her best friend who committed suicide.
For Best Actress race, Mulligan contends against two Oscar champs, Viola Davis (“Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”) and Frances McDormand (“Nomadland”), and two first-time nominees, Andra Day (“The United States vs. Billie Holiday”) and Vanessa Kirby (“Pieces of a Woman”). Mulligan is one of five nominees for her film which was also cited for Best Picture, Best Director (Emerald Fennell), Best Original Screenplay, and Best Film Editing.
Four of the last 10 Best Actress awards went to someone who had been nominated before but lost (most recently Emma Stone for “La La Land” in 2017), Four more won their second or third Oscar (most recently Renée Zellweger last year for “Judy”). Twice the category went to a first-time nominee (most recently Olivia Colman for “The Favourite” in 2019). Six of these 10 starred in a Best Picture nominee; that gives both Mulligan and McDormand a very slight upper hand this year.
While we can try our best to find an apt comparison from recent years to Mulligan’s chances this year, it’s tough to do so with such an unconventional season upon us. Typically we will see one contender mostly sweep through the major awards, winning all of the Golden Globe, SAG and BAFTA awards prior to Oscar night, or at the very least split the prizes with one other performer.
This article is a part of Gold Derby’s “Oscar nominee profile” series spotlighting the 2021 contenders.
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