In anticipation of the Academy Awards, we polled our contributors to see what they thought should win the Oscar. Once we had our winners, we asked various writers to make the case for our selection in each category. Here, Nell Minow makes the case for the Best Supporting Actress of 2017: Laurie Metcalf in "Lady Bird." Two winners will be announced Monday through Thursday, ending in our choices for Best Director and Best Picture on Friday.
Sometimes we think of the supporting category as the lesser role. While those roles may have less screen time and fewer lines, the category truly honors those actors who have in many ways the more difficult task of supporting the story and the lead performers. In “Lady Bird,” Laurie Metcalf plays the mother of the title character, a high school senior played by Saoirse Ronan. Like most teenagers, Lady Bird (the “given” name she gave herself) is a swirling tornado of emotions and hormones. Within any given moment, she experiences pretty much every sensation from grandiosity to despair. Metcalf conveys Lady Bird's mother’s own conflicted feelings as her daughter prepares to leave home, keeping up with Ronan’s exquisitely sensitive performance second by second. It is a challenge somewhere between tightrope walker and Ginger Rogers dancing backwards and in high heels. As she responds with enormous compassion and sensitivity, and sometimes frustration, Metcalf shows us a mother’s fierce effort to protect her daughter from harsher realities like the family’s financial struggles, her frustration in the adolescent self-absorption that makes that effort successful, and the rueful understanding that both feelings are just part of what a parent must experience. “I just want you to be the best version of yourself,” the mother tells her daughter, reflecting back to Lady Bird a reassuring vision of what she can be. Metcalf is the best version of what an actress can do to support the cast and the story.