Greta Gerwig is going to win the Golden Globe for Best Actress – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy. Well, it’s a hunch. I should probably apologize to fans of “Frances Ha” for jinxing it, actually. But I do think it’s possible, even likely. Hear me out.
Let’s just take a second and think about how amazing this particular category is, or at least can be. Sure, it often lines up with inevitable Oscar victories, or falls victim to the “category fraud” problem that occasionally troubles the drama/comedy/musical distinction at the Globes (I’m looking at you, Michelle Williams). But look back a few years! Twiggy has one of these awards, along with Ethel Meman and Bernadette Peters. Kathleen Turner won twice in a row. Rosalind Russell, who never managed to win an Oscar despite four nominations, never lost a Golden Globe.
In a way, this is a category especially equipped to recognize films so often ignored by the Academy later on in the season. Comedies, and particularly comedies about women, do not often get a great deal of attention this time of year. The fact that the Golden Globes celebrate comedy is cool enough, but this particular category forces them to find funny movies (or musicals) that are about women.
This year is no different. The distinction between comedy and drama is a little weird, of course, which makes the nominations for Meryl Streep in “August: Osage County” and Julie Delpy in “Before Midnight” a bit strange. Overall, though, it’s a great batch. “August” is badly directed but wildly entertaining, thanks mostly to its performances, and “Before Midnight” is a great film that wouldn’t be recognized at all otherwise. Neither would “Enough Said” or “Frances Ha,” actually, both of which were only nominated in this category.
Really, Amy Adams is the only actress on the list with any broader goodwill for her film helping her out. “American Hustle,” with its seven nominations, is heading into Sunday with a formidable presence. Conventional wisdom seems to have this race as Adams’ to lose, possibly to Streep (because she’s Streep). Both of them will likely get Oscar nods, after all. Delpy, Louis-Dreyfus and Gerwig won’t.
I don’t buy it. For one thing, neither Adams nor Streep has this year’s steamroller campaign of inevitability. That would be Cate Blanchett, and she’s nominated in the other Best Actress category (which is amusing because “Blue Jasmine” is funnier than at least a couple of these comedy nominees). Most of the surprises in this category happen, historically, when the eventual Oscar winner is over in Drama picking up another award that even the HFPA probably find a little dull, if still entirely deserving.
Remember the 66th Golden Globe Awards? They were wonderful. Sure, “Slumdog Millionaire” got its kinda bland endorsement from yet another awards body, but the Musical/Comedy acting trophies went to a couple of brilliant, unexpected people. Colin Farrell won for “In Bruges” and Sally Hawkins won for “Happy-Go-Lucky.” This was possible, in part, because the following Oscar race would coalesce around people nominated in the Drama categories. The intervening four years haven’t exactly been thrilling in comparison.
I bring this up, of course, because “Happy-Go-Lucky” and “Frances Ha” are basically the same movie. Sure, one of them is in black and white and set in New York, while the other is in a fully-colored London. Yet they’re both admittedly quirky and effortlessly intuitive character studies of two young women trying to figure out how to live, for real. Neither is an obvious candidate for big awards attention. The Hollywood focus of the Independent Spirit Awards may even partially explain why Gerwig didn’t even get a nomination there, despite the critical success of her very Gotham-centric film.
Hawkins won, I believe, because her performance and the film around her are irresistible. She and Mike Leigh wielded that character like a weapon of charm and clutzy resilience. It’s the same for Gerwig, Noah Baumbach and “Frances Ha.” Maybe it’s a long shot, and maybe I’m ruining it just by typing it out loud, but if there’s a single award in the entire circuit that was made for this particular performance, it’s the Golden Globe for Best Actress – Musical/Comedy.