This entry is part of StinkyLuLu's Supporting Actress Blogathon of 2007. You can view the other entrants here.
No Country for Old Men presently rides the highest wave to the shores of Best Picture. Carrying the Coen Brothers' latest masterpiece is Javier Bardem. His weapon of choice, his grizzly voice, his hair bob that haunts your waking life-- he himself is a shoo-in for Best Supporting Actor.
Throughout the film, no character can ever stand up to the madman's taunts. He bullies his way through handcuffs, locked hotel doors, innocent bystanders, having no mercy on just anyone-- only the luck of a coin toss can spare you. But one woman finally refuses to play his game, and it is this scene and this performance that complete the film-- it's the true end of the story, despite Tommy Lee's meandering final monologue.
Emmy winner Kelly Macdonald as Carl Jean Moss stops Bardem's Anton in his tracks. As they sit in that room, her predicting a cold fate, him giving her a 50/50 chance, she puts the monster in his place. Her stoic, reserved bitterness lets Anton know that she won't be a puppet. We know what she has been through-- what he has put her through. And until this moment, she was merely a wife concerned for her husband's safe return, her scattered scenes giving little range. But never doubt those pouty eyes. Not here.
One of her early scenes, along with Macdonald describing her character:
She hits it on the head in that interview. Carla Jean is the redeeming factor in this otherwise "serial killer" drama. Her husband Llewelyn sends her away at the beginning of the film, fearing for her safety. Carla Jean is rather indifferent to the $2 million that Llewelyn has just uncovered. Instead, her character is established as one whose prime concern is being content with her love-- she was exactly that in her trailer home, but must redefine the content with the situation's severity. She never asks for much, giving in a relationship but hardly having the opportunity to receive. Really, the money that Llewelyn fights to keep is for Carla Jean-- for a happier life elsewhere, and this struggle drives him to his end.She gets a few phone calls, gradual updates and warnings, and the story grants Macdonald very little as a supporting actress. But when she shows her hurt, and she looks the devil in the eyes, affected but unafraid, it is evident now that the Coen Bros. picked her for a reason.
Macdonald proves that less is more. No screaming or sobbing, no imitating iconic celebrities (male or female), no fighting or fleeting. Just that cold, deep, piercing glow of her eyes. She needs no actual gun to pull the trigger on this moment. Carla Jean won't call her fate, as Anton demands. Her fate has been had.
See her toward the end of this trailer, and you get the best overall package of the story with Macdonald sealing her final scene:
Her fate as a Supporting Actress nominee may be less than 50/50 odds, and don't count on Macdonald to call her bet. Here's to trusting that the Academy will recognize what makes No Country the true Best Picture contender it is: yes, Javier Bardem is the film's prominent icon; his career will be remembered primarily for this role. But because the role speaks volumes for a terrific actor, it should speak volumes that humble, less-is-more Kelly Macdonald stole the show from underneath him, when none of us expected anything more. Best Supporting Actress by all definitions.