Review of ‘To Leslie’ with Andrea Riseborough nominated as Oscar best actress

March 3, 2023 Mario Bautista 543 views

Leslie1ANDREA Riseborough is a British actress we best remember for her appearance with Tom Cruise in the sci-fi action film, “Oblivion”. She’s now nominated as Oscar best actress for her role as an alcoholic in “To Leslie”, where she personally lobbied to get a nomination.

alcoholics and junkies is a role coveted by most actors. And why not? So many actors won awards or got acting nominations for such a role, like Ray Milland in “The Lost Weekend”, Nicolas Cage in “Leaving Las Vegas, Jack Lemmon and Lee Remick in “Days of Wine and Roses”, Denzel Washington in “Flight”, Ingrid Bergman in “Notorious”, Ewan MacGregor in “Trainspotting”, Michael Keaton in “Clean and Sober”, Ellen Burstyn in “Requiem for a Dream”, Anne Hathaway for “Rachel Getting Married”, Jamie Foxx in “Ray”, Ryan Gosling in “Half Nelson”, Meg Ryan in “When a Man Loves a Woman” and Sandra Bullock in “28 Days”.

In addiction films like “Ben is Back” (Lucas Hedges) and “Beautiful Boy” (Timothy Chalamet), it’s the son who is hooked on substance abuse and their parents (Julia Roberts, Steve Carell) are just helpless about it. But in “To Leslie”, it’s the mother who is an alcoholic and it’s her teenage son who looks after her.

The movie starts with Leslie (Riseborough) jubilant after winning a whopping $190,000 in a lottery. In the next scene, six years have passed and she is dirt poor, having squandered all the money she won.

She is being kicked out of the motel where she is staying and she begs for help from the people around her, but no one minds her pleadings. She then seeks the help of her son, James (Owen Teague), who she has abandoned as a child but is now a construction worker.

He allows her to stay in his apartment but she’s no longer allowed to drink. She claims she is not drinking anymore but she soon steals money to buy liquor. Other people try to help her but she is just hopeless.

But unlike other films about junkies that end more realistically without the characters being redeemed, “To Leslie” opts to redeem the title character. All of a sudden, she becomes sober and is sensibly managing a diner. Her son then visits her and they reconcile.

We’re all for redemption of a wayward character but here, how Leslie changed for the better is not well delineated. After all the degradation she went through as a lowlife, how did she arrive in her decision to change for the better?

Honestly, we don’t have any sympathy for the character. Leslie is such a loser! But we can understand why Hollywood people are rooting for Riseborough’s scenery-chewing performance in the Oscars.

It’s because addiction and alcoholism is so rampant in their society, with celebrities often seeking treatment from Alcoholics Anonymous, the Betty Ford Center and other rehab clinics.

Riseborough is no doubt convincing as Leslie in an indie movie that she herself produced. But nobody has seen or heard of it, until she campaigned for it and then other stars like Jennifer Aniston and Gwyneth Paltrow lobbied for her in social media.

Watch the movie and see if you could identify with someone who is an annoying nuisance and a big burden to her family and friends. She is such a habitual liar and an eternal disappointment to anyone who would make the mistake of trusting her.

But it’s the kind of role that actors would love to play as it’s so challenging to transform yourself to meet its demands. But in the case of Leslie, Director Michael Morris gives us an addicted character who is so off-putting, just a black hole we just cannot emphatize with at all.

We pity more her son and her friend Nancy (Allison Janey) who are martyrs in lengthening their patience to tolerate her. Leslie is simply nuts, an abrasive burden to her folks, and she is definitely not worth a movie.

And the way she recovers is just unbelievable. All throughout, the film showed tough psychological realism in portraying Leslie’s addiction to booze. Then suddenly, without even showing her seeking therapy or getting into a 12-step recovery program, she just changed overnight. This was done miraculously, just in time for the happy ending with her son.

We think the actress who got robbed of an Oscar nomination this year is black actress Danielle Deadwyler as the grieving mother of a teenaged boy who was lynched in “Till”. Instead of wallowing in grief, she turns her shock and horror into indignation to become a committed civil rights fighter. That is definitely one of the better female performances of the past year.