So here we are, discussing the five performances nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress of 1987. And what a year this is! Not only there is variety in this lineup in the films and performances, but the quality of this line-up is off-the-charts.
Cher, from the romantic comedy Moonstruck.
Glenn Close, from the erotic thriller Fatal Attraction.
Holly Hunter, from the satire Broadcast News.
Sally Kirkland, from the independent drama Anna.
And Meryl Streep, from the period drama Ironweed.
Here is my personal ranking of the five performances:
1 – Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction (as Alex Forrest)
Take away the iconic status of this performance and what we have is a surprisingly vulnerable take on a character that the film so insistently tries to villainize. The film may have aged a bit in terms of its representation of infidelity, but Glenn Close’s work remains to be a potent examination of emotional fragility and instability. She manages to escape all shortcuts and broad strokes of this character. Career-best work for sure.
2 – Meryl Streep in Ironweed (as Helen Archer)
An unfairly underrated performance from her revered repertoire, Meryl Streep surprised me with a performance that is both haunting and devastating. It’s a performance that distills despair and hopelessness in such an effective way. Streep plays not a whole human being, but the remains of a once-alive person that is slowly disintegrating. She comes in late and leaves early, but the power of this performance stays.
3 – Holly Hunter in Broadcast News (as Jane Craig)
I’m on the side that thinks Broadcast News is more of a satire than a romantic comedy. Either way, Holly Hunter nails the steely, determined nature of this character that must have been and IS a powerful image of career woman. She benefits from strong writing and wonderful dynamic with her fellow actors. And when the film turns dark, she expertly navigates the grey areas of the story. She is in command and commanding in every scene effortlessly.
4 – Sally Kirkland in Anna (as Anna)Unlike the rest of the nominees, she does not benefit from her film AT ALL. It’s a confused film that made one perplexing choice after the other. So there is Sally Kirkland, giving it all in a freaking tour-de-force that doesn’t necessarily try to salvage the film that’s around her but defies all odds and creates an unforgettable portrayal of defeat and loss.
5 – Cher in Moonstruck (as Loretta Castorini)
Cher just radiates in a performance that is vanity-free and lived in. She benefits from witty writing that possesses a very specific tone of humor, and Cher gets the spirit of the material. It is deceptively low-key, but it is a performance that never coasts merely on charm. There is delicate maneuvering here, and Cher is the reliable core of this film.
And here are the probable runners-up of this race:
Lillian Gish – The Whales of August
Faye Dunaway – Barfly
Barbra Streisand – Nuts
Bette Davis – The Whales of August
Rachel Levin – Gaby: A True Story
Diane Keaton – Baby Boom
And here is the rest of the field (please tell me if I missed anyone):
Anne Bancroft – 84 Charing Cross Road
Ellen Barkin – The Big Easy
Cher – The Witches of Eastwick
Cher – Suspect
Lindsay Crouse – House of Games
Jennifer Grey – Dirty Dancing
Daryl Hannah – Roxanne
Barbara Hershey – Shy People
Holly Hunter – Raising Arizona
Anjelica Huston – The Dead
Christine Lahti – Housekeeping
Emily Lloyd – Wish You Were Here
Carmen Maura – Law of Desire
Sheila McCarthy – I’ve Heard the Mermaids Sing
Bette Midler – Outrageous Fortune
Sarah Miles – Hope and Glory
Vanessa Redgrave – Prick up Your Ears
Theresa Russell – Black Widow
Debra Sandlund – Tough Guys Don’t Dance
Louise Smith – Working Girls
Maggie Smith – The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne
Julie Walters – Personal Services
Debra Winger – Black Widow
Joanne Woodward – The Glass Menagerie
Robin Wright – The Princess Bride