The new arthouse horror film Hereditary is being hailed by critics — not so much audiences with a D+ CinemaScore — for its disturbing atmosphere, sustained suspense and sublime scares, but most of the chatter coming out of it is the powerhouse performance from Toni Collette. And it’s for a very good reason.
After the death of the family matriarch, the Graham family experiences a series of terrible misfortunes, and through it all, it slowly comes to light that Annie (Toni Collette), daughter of the matriarch, has struggled with issues long before her mother’s death. The events taking place start at a slow-burn, and it’s Collette’s performance — bubbling rage and anguish beneath a barely-held-together steely veneer — that keeps us engaged and guessing where this twisted tale will take us next.
It’s not a stretch to suggest she will be in the awards conversation come Oscar time. A24 has already dumped plenty of campaigning into the release of the film, and it’s no doubt they’ll push Collette all the way into September and beyond. The indie distributor has a good track record of making nominations happen, especially after the successes of Moonlight and Lady Bird. And horror is no longer a genre that gets ignored, now that Get Out was perhaps the biggest conversation piece of last year’s awards push.
Collette will likely make appearances in nominations for the preliminary awards, such as Independent Spirit, Gotham, and the Golden Globes, not to mention guild circles. It’s of course still too early to gauge, but there is definitely a case to be made for her as a favorite among awards voters, given her previous track record.
Screen Actors Guild and Golden Globes have all lauded her with nominations for her work in the series United States of Tara, and she also holds an Emmy statuette for that role. Most recently she was extremely close to receiving her second Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination for Little Miss Sunshine. She had received the Golden Globe and BAFTA nominations, which some thought would tip her over the edge to an Oscar nomination, her first since The Sixth Sense in 2000. And how perfect it would be for her second Oscar nomination to also be a horror film.
The closest comparison is Jennifer Kent’s The Babadook and Essie Davis’ performance therein. While it being an Australian film with small exposure that expanded to earn an LGBT-cult following years later, it still garnered a bit of awards attention for Davis. With Hereditary opening in wide release from A24, there shouldn’t be a problem with access and exposure. People are going to be seeing this movie, and the box office will likely not disappoint.
And of course there’s the draw of Toni Collette, and awards voters seem to love her. With A24 backing her with what will probably be a big awards campaign, I’m guessing she’ll at least be in the conversation when it comes time. The term “tour de force” gets thrown around a lot, but what Collette does in Hereditary really is exactly that. It’s a role that was tailor-made for her, too. She’s always been an actress to burst with moments of pure emoting, even in things like In Her Shoes. Here, in a horror film, she’s able to go all out, and it fits the mood perfectly.
There is one scene that’s already begging to be her Oscar clip. It’s a dinner scene where the second tragedy has struck the Graham home, and the family sits in silence; that is until the son, Peter (Alex Wolff), chimes in and tries to confront his mother. Annie stands up and bellows at him in an eruption of anger, despair and sadness twisted into a deeply jarring lash-out that no mother should ever have at her offspring. The family dysfunction, led by Collette’s Annie, is the real nightmare on display.
And that’s not to count out Alex Wolff, either. He delivers an equally visceral performance that goes toe-to-toe with what Collette delivers. Expect to hear both their names thrown around a lot once we head into awards season.