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Ever since 2013's Short Term 12, Brie Larson has been a name that's been whispered in the highest circles of Hollywood. Tonight, she took home her first trophy for Best Actress for her performance in this year's Best Picture nominee, Room. And in a year of terrific nominees, Larson's performance as Ma stood out as a front-runner for the top honors, and rightfully so.
As one of the two leads that anchored the emotional story that is Room, Brie Larson's Ma is a victim in captivity, alongside her son Jack who was born during said entrapment. Still suffering at the hands of her captor, "Old Nick," Ma does what she has to in order to help her son live as normal of a life as possible. Eventually, her hand is forced, and she sends her son into the world in order to save the two of them, which results in the winning of their freedom. Unfortunately for Ma, also known as Joy, her troubles become greater once she tries to readjust to the world.
While Brie Larson is absolutely riveting while trapped during the first half of Room, its her adjustment to the outside world in the second act that really shows off Larson's acting muscles. While Ma was even tempered and in control within "Room," she begins to mentally regress in the real world when she becomes Joy again. After all, Joy's been missing for 7 years, and was gradually replaced by Ma during her adjustment to being a mother in a dire circumstance. Larson's performances as both the subdued Ma and the damaged Joy are brilliant on their own, but to combined and bridge the two halves of one fractured psyche is where the real magic happens.
Both personalities are different enough that they contrast each other in their behavior, yet at the same time that difference is so minute that an actor with a deft touch is what's required. Brie Larson has that touch, and she used it to great effect. The best evidence of this fact is in the one moment in Room that serves as the nexus between the subservient Ma and the lost, but defiant, Joy. It's in the clip we've included below, in which Ma/Joy is telling Jack about her abduction.
The Oscar for Best Actress is in good hands with Brie Larson, simply because her performance as Ma / Joy was an even handed triumph, never devolving into histrionics or parody. In lesser hands, the role would have been an overwrought mess, leaving Room to falter in the end. But with Larson's well honed acting skills on the rise, this evening's reward is a well deserved cap to a whirlwind year. Congratulations to Ms. Larson, as well as all of tonight's big winners!