TO LESLIE (2022) – My rating: 9/10

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“To Leslie” is an independent drama directed by Michael Morris (in his feature directorial debut), from a screenplay by Ryan Binaco. Inspired by true events, the film is about a single mother who is an alcoholic and uses up all the prize money she received after winning the lottery.
This is another movie I had never heard of until the 95th Oscar nominations. After seeing  “To Leslie”, I think it was a shame that it was not widely distributed and shown in multiple theaters.  I found this movie to be outstanding.

Leslie (Andrea Riseborough) is a troubled and manipulative alcoholic from West Texas who won $190,000 in a local lottery, only to squander the winnings on liquor and drugs. Six years later, Leslie is destitute, living a peripatetic life in motels and on the streets. After being kicked out of a residential motel, she reunites with her estranged 20-year-old son James (Owen Teague), who allows her to live with him under the provision that she not drink. Leslie soon steals money from James’s roommate Darren (Catfish Jean), and James discovers liquor bottles under her mattress, leading him to call his grandmother Helen (Lauren Letherer) and Leslie’s sister Nancy (Allison Janney) for help.

Leslie is forced to return to an unforgiven town where she grew up in West Texas. She now has to determine what the rest of her life is going to look like. Leslie is defined as a drunk, a loudmouth, unclean, homeless, and is unliked, as well as a deadbeat alcoholic. This combination is not easy to reverse even if that is her intention. Andrea gives the performance of her life as she is thoroughly convincing as an alcoholic. I’m not sure if she lost weight for this film or if she’s really as skinny as she appears on camera, but it all fits the character she’s playing. I didn’t expect “To Leslie” to be so emotional or so well acted. Andrea’s performance was brilliant and this, inspired by a true story, was entertaining and exciting. “To Leslie” flew way beneath the radar as it would have definitely been a worthwhile contender for Best: Actress, Director, and Picture, in my opinion. I was pleasantly pleased with the outcome of “To Leslie” and highly recommend it, as it is worth the watch. Please read the controversial information surrounding this Oscar-nominated movie below.

“To Leslie” has earned (100%) $27,322 worldwide. On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, 97% of 72 critics’ reviews are positive, with an average rating of 7.6/10. The website’s consensus reads, “To Leslie’s familiar framework is granted extra depth through a stellar Andrea Riseborough and a sensitive and nuanced approach to the cycle of addiction.” To Leslie is streaming for rent on Prime Video for $6.99 — Check It Out!

Controversial information about “To Leslie’s” single nomination for Best Actress Oscar nomination complements of Wikipedia:

As Momentum Pictures did not fund a conventional, advertising-driven awards campaign for the film, director Michael Morris and his wife, actress Mary McCormack, organized a “celeb-backed campaign” to get Riseborough nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress. They contacted friends and colleagues in the entertainment industry, asking them to view the film and share it with others if they enjoyed it. Morris and Riseborough also hired publicists to coordinate the efforts. While theretofore not widely seen or regarded as a serious awards contender, the campaign successfully raised the film’s profile as dozens of celebrities publicly praised it and Riseborough’s performance on social media; some also hosted screenings during voting for the Academy Award nominations in January 2023. Riseborough was nominated for the award on January 24, which the Los Angeles Times called “one of the most shocking nominations in Oscar history”.

After the nomination was announced, there was speculation within the media and the film industry that the tactics may have violated an Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences rule against directly lobbying voters. Academy rules forbid individuals from giving “their personal signature, personal regards, or pleas to watch the film” in campaign-related communications. A post on the film’s Instagram account was also subject to criticism, for possibly violating an Academy rule against “[singling] out ‘the competition’ by name”; the post featured a quote from film critic Richard Roeper, who praised Riseborough’s performance as better than Cate Blanchett’s in Tár, a fellow nominee for Best Actress. On January 27, the Academy announced that they were “conducting a review of the campaign procedures around this year’s nominees, to ensure that no guidelines were violated, and to inform us whether changes to the guidelines may be needed in a new era of social media and digital communication”.

The Academy occasionally rescinds nominations if it is found that the nominee participated in unsanctioned campaigning. However, there were no reports that Riseborough had done so, or that any Academy members had lodged formal complaints about the campaign’s behavior; consequently, Clayton Davis of Variety and Pete Hammond of Deadline Hollywood both predicted that the nomination would be unaffected. On January 31, the Academy concluded its review by pledging to address “social media and outreach campaigning tactics” which they said caused “concern”, but confirming that Riseborough’s nomination would be retained.

[TO LESLIE is Oscar-nominated for Best Actress at the 95th Academy Awards for a total of 1 nomination]



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