If there is something Laura Linney has proved time and time again is that it’s simply ridiculous to underestimate her award chances. In 2007, she came out of nowhere and scored a surprise Best Actress nomination for her wonderful work in the dark comedy The Savages. This was the same year when high profile actresses like Keira Knightley, Amy Adams, Julia Roberts, Anne Hathaway, Naomi Watts and indie sensations like Keri Russell and Anamaria Marinca were all vying for that competitive fifth slot available after the usual suspects cemented their status.
Linney isn’t only one of the greatest working actresses (in effortlessness levels she is only rivaled by Jeff Bridges) but, despite this very greatness, she is also dearly beloved by her peers who have so far rewarded her with three Emmys, two Golden Globes, a SAG award and three Tony nominations. Earlier this year she was the Oscar “front-runner” for her work in Hyde Park on Hudson which seemed to be made specifically to get her the elusive award.
In the Roger Michell-directed film she plays Margaret “Daisy” Suckley, one of FDR’s most beloved cousins who eventually became his mistress. That’s two Oscar qualification checkbox yeses in a row (real life person, mistress). On paper it seemed as if no one else would even come close to challenging Linney’s chances - especially when she’s regarded as being overdue—but up to that point no one had even seen the movie.
Hyde Park on Hudson itself had many things going on for it; in terms of awards bait-ness, not only does it deal with one of America’s most beloved political figures, it also has a fantastic ensemble and even features Bertie and Liz, the jolly English monarchs who notoriously won every award in the world for The King’s Speech.
After having seen the movie however, it remains quite clear that lightning most certainly won’t strike twice and the movie won’t be as popular as its British counterpart. Even if technically the film is quite remarkable, its characters seem too “immoral” to have that across-the-board appeal that made The King’s Speech so beloved. And yes, award voters often feel the need to like the characters they’re voting for, if not that at least they like pitying them.
This is where Linney’s extraordinary work surprises. Throughout the entire movie, she seems to be acting around Bill Murray’s FDR. Her character is given ridiculous lines that would seem more purposeful on a Downton Abbey parody and she isn’t given much to do considering that this is her story after all. But lo and behold, Linney overcomes all her character’s flaws and instead of making her saintlike in her humbleness she infuses her with a quiet dignity which makes us question who are we to dare and judge this woman.
Daisy’s plight might not always be easy to understand but Linney’s is, she asks us to see this woman like she saw her, without any judgment, with an open heart and mind. For she, like anyone else, suffered fools for love, even if the object of her affection had the power to start a world war. Where lesser actresses would’ve been condescending, Linney embraces Daisy and by the end of the movie she’s the only one we see.