Sunday, January 15, 2012

For Your Consideration: Vera Farmiga in Higher Ground

Though I haven't seen Meryl Streep's bid for Best Impersonation in The Iron Lady, and I will applaud as loud as anyone when Viola Davis gets nominated (and probably wins) for The Help, I would love to see Vera Farmiga get a nod for her difficult and understated performance in Higher Ground.

Even after her appearances in The Departed and Up in the Air, two movies I quite liked, I wasn't on the Vera Farmiga train. Higher Ground changed my mind. She plays a woman, Corinne, who eases into life in a fundamentalist "house church" almost imperceptibly. A few dozen minor decisions and one near-catastrophe find her and her husband and kids deeply ensconced in a radical New Testament congregation.

As time goes on and life continues to deliver the kind of joys and disasters that life tends to do, Corinne discovers that the church to which she has dedicated her life no longer meets the spiritual and emotional needs of the woman she has become. Farmiga plays the dismay, torment, and anger this realization provokes in her character with remarkable subtlety and pathos. Corinne's attempts to reimagine her entire worldview, and to re-invent the relationships that comprise her world, are moving and resonant with anyone who has had to deal with the messiness and exuberance of recalibrating their lives. Farmiga is responsible for nearly all of what makes this film successful, as it is also her directorial debut.

Higher Ground might be a small movie, but it's holding a lot of talent. 

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