Lawrence shines in debut

This year's contenders for drama actress

Previous Globe winners Berry, Kidman and Portman compete with newcomers who turned their edgy indie roles in ‘Valentine’ and ‘Bone’ into Golden opportunities.

Halle Berry, “Frankie & Alice”
If HFPA voters are marking their ballots based on a handful of standout scenes, Berry makes quite an impression. She plays a 1970s stripper with multiple personalities, completely unaware of her deteriorating condition. Playing opposite Stellan Skarsgard and drifting “Sybil”-like from one personality to another, Berry transforms herself with ease. Clearly she’s a Globe favorite — it’s her fourth nom — and an actress who demands attention whether she’s playing a character with a mousy personality or a woman who fills the screen with an overindulgent narcissism.

Nicole Kidman, “Rabbit Hole”
Not many thesps have received as much tough criticism — fair or otherwise — as Kidman in recent years, but it would be hard to see anyone dissing her riveting perf as a mom who can’t quite come to grasp with the loss of her 4-year-old son. Her interplay with co-star Aaron Eckhart feels as genuine as anything she’s ever done, proving that with the right indie project and a director who can see what made her a household name, Kidman remains a viable cinematic force.

Jennifer Lawrence, “Winter’s Bone”
Everyone likes a newcomer, and Lawrence fills that role with panache. It’s a performance with gritty realism that many more experienced actresses could never match. Searching for her deadbeat father in the Ozarks, Lawrence encounters a parade of black-hearted indigents who won’t lift a finger of support — and they’re family members. She’ll clearly go on to bigger projects in what should be a long career, but “Bone” will forever be her barometer of greatness.

Natalie Portman, “Black Swan”
As much for the performance as the preparation, Portman has been rightly celebrated for her turn to the dark side, literally, in Darren Aranofsky’s affecting ballerina drama. Whether it was the physical punishment her body endures or the psychological warfare from which she suffers, Portman’s character is a complete mess and can’t quite connect with reality. Though it’s clearly a beautiful artistic endeavor, dance becomes the devil’s work in a film that’s one of the most thought-provoking of the season.

Michelle Williams, “Blue Valentine”
A legitimate complaint could be made that there was an overabundance of recent pics featuring squabbling couples, but few could argue the veracity of Williams’ turn in both fallling in and out of love with Ryan Gosling. Looking for emotional support in hopes of escaping from a troubled childhood home, Williams took on her character’s burdens before it eventually all became too much. While there was sometimes little to like about this couple, thanks to Williams and Gosling, there was plenty to admire.

A year ago. . .

Sandra Bullock became the one to beat last year when she won the Golden Globe for “The Blind Side.” While sports films don’t often succeed either at the box office or during awards season, this pic gathered momentum and never looked back. The $29 million film ended up earning $255 million domestically and put Bullock back on the list as one of the most sought-after actresses working today. “The Blind Side” was icing on the cake for Bullock, who toplined laffer “The Proposal” that went on to earn $317 million worldwide. Despite all the good fortune Bullock encountered with with those two films, there wasn’t much positive to say about “All About Steve,” as the actress won a Razzie. In keeping with her sense of having fun, Bullock stopped by the ceremony the night before the Oscars and said, “I think this is an extraordinary award,” said Bullock, who had promised throughout awards season that if she won the Razzie, she would accept it in person. “I didn’t realize that, in Hollywood, all you had to do was say you’d show up, and then you’d get the award. If I’d known that, I would have said I was appearing at the Oscars a long time ago.” Going forward, Bullock is set to play opposite George Clooney in Alfonso Cuaron’s “Gravity” for Warner Bros.
— Stuart Levine

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Drama | Comedy/Musical | Drama – Actor | Drama – Actress | Comedy – Actor | Comedy – Actress
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