To Leslie (Andrea Riseborough, Marc Maron, Owen Teague, Allison Janney, Stephen Root) – Nobody saw this film. It opened in two theaters and immediately went to pay-to-view. Its director never helmed a feature before. Its British star, Andrea Riseborough, was best known as the love interest to Billie Jean King’s character in Battle of the Sexes and smaller roles in Nocturnal Animals, Birdman, and eight episodes of the Netflix series Bloodline.
Leslie is a despicable person. She squandered the $190,000 she won in the lottery on booze and drugs, abandoned her son (Owen Teague, who also played her son in Bloodline), lost every friend she had, and alienated her family (played by celebrated actors Allison Janney and Stephen Root). Broke, beaten, and desperate, she blames everyone but herself for her empty and vacuous life. She reaches out to her son, messes it up, and eventually returns home to West Texas having reached absolute rock bottom. There, she is shunned … and deserves it. She steals and whores around, taking the money to buy booze and close down the local bar.
When she meets good-natured Sweeney (Marc Maron), the owner of a broken-down motel, she has no hope. For reasons not clear, he offers her a job as a maid and gives her an advance on her $7/hour salary. She blows it, of course. But he gives her a second and third chance. In short, he tries to save her. The rest of the film is the story of her journey, her last chance.
Riseborough’s performance is fantastic. She holds nothing back. It’s raw, revealing and riveting. To Leslie is a “little” film with a gigantic performance by a talented actress. It deserves to be seen.
Whether it warrants a Best Actress nomination is a matter of debate. Some of Hollywood’s most well-known and connected actresses (Amy Adams, Kate Winslet, Charlize Theron, Gwyneth Paltrow, Jennifer Aniston, Courtney Cox, Minnie Driver, and Melanie Lynskey) and director Michael Morris’ actress/wife Mary McCormack held private screenings and an aggressive social media campaign to promote Riseborough for a Best Actress nomination. Whether this effort constituted “lobbying,” which is outlawed by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, is now the subject of an investigation by the Academy.
Adding to the controversy is the reality that outstanding performances by two high profile African American actresses, Viola Davis for The Woman King and Danielle Deadwyler for “Till,” were ignored in the Best Actress category while a group of white actresses and others orchestrated a campaign for Riseborough.
The Academy doesn’t need another controversy that touches on the lack of diversity in Hollywood. With the ratings of the Oscars in the toilet, this controversy hurts an industry struggling to get people back into theaters. However, the controversy will definitely help the film with a new box office release and increased viewing on Prime Video ($6.99 rental).