Best Actress Oscar race: Andrea Riseborough (‘To Leslie’) surges into top 10 after celebrity peers express support

The Oscar race for Best Actress is heating up just days before nominations are announced on January 24. The morning after Colin Farrell used his Golden Globes victory speech to stump for Ana de Armas, the “Blonde” star scored an unlikely SAG Awards nomination, while Michelle Williams, fourth in our combined Oscar odds, was snubbed for “The Fabelmans.” 

Perhaps the competition’s most interesting development, however, took place outside of the top 10 altogether. Thanks to a wave of support from her peers, Andrea Riseborough, who plays an alcoholic trying to reconnect with her son (Owen Teague) in “To Leslie,” has seen an incredible surge into ninth place (and rising).

SEE Andrea Riseborough (‘To Leslie’) discusses ‘marathon’ of preparation for her ‘vivacious’ character’s ‘cycles of shame’ [Exclusive Video Interview]

The title character once hit the lottery for $190,000, but all of it is gone by the time we meet her. Dragging around a suitcase with clothes that have been torn and dirtied from nights spent sleeping outside, Leslie has seemingly depleted the goodwill of everyone in her life. When she begins rooming with James, the child she abandoned when he was 13, we quickly see why. Any natural charisma she still has is overshadowed by her volatile and deceptive behavior. A chance for redemption emerges, however, in the form of a kindly motel manager played by Marc Maron. Viewers who’ve struggled through alcoholism or witnessed it ravage a loved one will recognize the character’s short-lived resolutions and self-inflicted setbacks. 

Edward Norton, Riseborough’s “Birdman” co-star, tweeted that he was “knocked sideways” by her “physically harrowing” work. Jennifer AnistonGwyneth PaltrowCharlize Theron and Sarah Paulson have also publicly expressed their admiration for and hosted screenings of the micro-budget film. “We can’t even afford an ad,” director Michael Morris recently complained. “We live or die by people’s reactions to the film.” Other big names to shout Riseborough out include Reese Witherspoon, Melanie Lynskey, Zooey DeschanelHelen HuntSusan SarandonRosie O’Donnell, and Howard Stern. The star’s work is complemented by deeply felt turns from Maron, Teague, Allison JanneyStephen Root, and Andre Royo. In a perfect world, this is the sort of ensemble effort that would be setting awards season on fire. 

“To Leslie” has flown even lower under the radar than indie contenders “Causeway” and “The Inspection,” but enough number-one mentions might nab Riseborough a Best Actress slot, even if the overall group to have seen the film remains small. Buzz couldn’t be spreading at a better time, as voting is ongoing, and hype for the likeliest five nominees peaked months ago. Riseborough, on the other hand, represents a new and dynamic factor in the race. The highest honor she’s received for the role thus far is an Indie Spirit nomination. Will her late surge land Riseborough an Oscar bid as well? 

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