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Is Toni Collette’s performance in “Hereditary” a Best Actress possibility?

Last week saw the release of Hereditary, the latest classy horror outing from distributor A24. Critically acclaimed, it rode into theaters on a wave of strong buzz. Not only was it feted as one of the best of the genre this year, but as a potential Oscar player for star Toni Collette. Well, I saw the film but didn’t have a chance to write about it then, so I’m doubling back now. Mainly, I want to make sure I address whether the flick is in fact a possible Academy Award contender for Collette (and/or anywhere else, for that matter). Read on to find out my take on the whole thing.

The movie is an indie horror release, one that often blurs the line between drama and horror. IMDb describes it as such: “When the matriarch of the Graham family passes away, her daughter’s family begins to unravel cryptic and increasingly terrifying secrets about their ancestry.” Annie (Collette) was never really close with her mother, but her daughter Charlie (Milly Shapiro) was. As both begin to be affected by the matriarch’s death in distinct ways, the family itself begins to fray, with son Peter (Alex Wolff) particularly caught in the middle. As tragedy compounds itself, something otherworldly and decidedly sinister begins coming into focus. Terror ensues. Ari Aster writes and directs the flick, while the rest of the cast includes Gabriel Byrne, Ann Dowd, and more. The cinematography is by Pawel Pogorzelski, while Colin Stetson provides the score.

Personally, I wasn’t wild about this film. It’s very well made, and everything you’ve heard about Collette is true, but it’s too long and spends far too much of its running time spinning its wheels. Wolff is good as well, while it’s always nice to see Byrne pop up, but Collette is really the only standout. Aster has made a calling card movie, one that should get him plenty of work in the years to come. At least for me though, it’s not on the level of It Follows, to compare it to a similar indie horror outing. Your mileage may vary though.

Now, as for Collette, can she overcome genre trappings and score some Oscar attention? Honestly, the answer is probably not. It would be almost impossible for her to win the Academy Award for Best Actress, and even a nomination is unlikely. People may point to Daniel Kaluyya last year getting into Best Actor for Get Out, but that was a crossover success that voters were watching en mass. Hereditary won’t be competing in Best Picture and Best Director, nor will it win Best Original Screenplay, like that film last year did, so the comparison is a poor one. Genre fare like this usual makes a play when it’s a contender in other categories. This movie is banking it all on Collette in Actress. Barring something shocking, she’s going to come up short. Kudos to A24 if they decide to go for it when the time comes, but it’s a quixotic quest, at best.

The odds are stacked against Collette and Hereditary, but we shall see. For now, the film will just have to hope that it’ll be remembered when the fall and winter seasons hit. That likely won’t happen to the extent some are hoping for now, especially not with the D CinemaScore it received over the weekend, but that’s a story for another day. If Collette and the movie defy the odds, it will be another unique sign that voters within the Academy are embracing new contenders. That’s a good thing, no matter how you slice it. For now though, it’s a fun thing to speculate about, albeit not an especially realistic one…

Be sure to check out Hereditary, in theaters everywhere now!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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