If I were composing (and this isn’t to say I won’t) a the top ten list of working actresses in line to win an Oscar, Michelle Williams would be near the front of the pack. I would have never thought that “Jen” from “Dawson’s Creek”, my favorite WB show when I was in seventh grade, would one day become one of the most talented actresses in Hollywood let alone an Oscar-nominee.
The uneducated Oscar follower will think that her big break came in Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain as Alma, the young wife that discovers her husband’s dark secret. The truth is Ms. Williams started gaining independent attention in films like The Station Agent (2003), in which she was nominated along with her co-stars for Cast Ensemble by the Screen Actors Guild Awards; she also captured attention as “Ruby” in Erik Skjoldbjærg’s Prozac Nation (2001) with Christina Ricci and as Lana in Wim Wenders’ Land of Plenty (2004), a performance that netted her a Best Actress nomination from the Independent Spirit Awards.
When Williams was cast as Alma in Lee’s film, in her minimal screen time, Williams was able to make an undeniable impression. As Alma makes her progression from a loving and devoted wife and mother to an enigma of confusion after she witnesses her husband Ennis (Heath Ledger) kissing his fishing buddy Jack Twist (Jake Gyllenhaal), Williams exhibits such control in allowing Alma to undergo the emotional narrative from confusion to regret and eventually to bewilderment and anger. Williams was nominated for Best Supporting Actress and is believed to have been second to Oscar-winner Rachel Weisz in The Constant Gardener (2005).
Following her nomination, she went right back into independent cinema, showcasing her range in I’m Not There (2007), Synecdoche, New York (2008), where she won the Robert Altman Award, and the impeccable performance as Wendy in Wendy & Lucy (2008), another performance nominated for an Indie Spirit.
Her second dance with Oscar would come in Derek Cianfrance’s Blue Valentine (2010) with Ryan Gosling, as Cindy, a young woman trapped in a loveless marriage. What makes her nomination more significant is Williams missed key nominations throughout the awards season including SAG and beating stiff competition from Hilary Swank, Halle Berry, and Noomi Rapace, Williams secured her nomination and become an actor to watch.
Last year, Williams captured critics and audience’s hearts in her turn as Marilyn Monroe in Simon Curtis’ My Week with Marilyn (2011). In a tight race that included Viola Davis and Meryl Streep, Williams won the Golden Globe and Independent Spirit Award during her Oscar run and again, remained a formidable threat during the season to take it all in the end. This was her second consecutive Best Actress nomination.
This year, Michelle Williams has been nominated and won some critical citations for her turn in Sarah Polley’s Take this Waltz, proving once again that she can take on even the most contemporary roles and make them feel authentic and real. While a nomination this year seems unlikely, I’m sure she’ll have her name quite a few times on ballots as they were just turned in.
In 2013, Williams will be taking on the role of Glinda in Disney’s prequel to The Wizard of Oz in Sam Raimi’s Oz: The Great and Powerful with James Franco. The role to watch her for will be in Saul Dibb’s Suite Francaise with Kristin Scott Thomas and Matthias Schoenaerts. The film is being adapted by Oscar-winning writer Ronald Harwood. The film is slated for a 2014 release but sometimes studios can make some interesting moves like they did this year with Promised Land and Hitchcock.
ADVICE: Honestly Michelle, don’t change anything. You have done it right so far. Even though I’m in a small minority that thought you were severely miscast as Marilyn Monroe, it’s the type of role you need that gives you attention and I’m ALL for that. I’ve personally loved you the most when you’re in contemporary pieces with original creations that aren’t afraid to bare their souls. Something like Blue Valentine in your future will surely do the trick. I can’t wait to see you on the stage because I can’t imagine them denying you when your time comes. Not for nothing, you could end up as one of the rare instances like Jodie Foster and Hilary Swank. Oh, and by the way, I LOVE that you are with Jason Segal. One of my favorite couples right now.