Joan Allen in "The Contender"
Lost the 2000 Best Actress Oscar to Julia Roberts in "Erin Brockovich"
"The Contender" is so skewed towards celebrating Laine's poker face that if this role were given to a less generous actress one could imagine her becoming too formidable; a stilted, gratuitously-elusive "victim" of circumstance unable to breach the boundaries of the moderate arena. It could be that, in maintaining the fluidity of her character's approach towards the political dynamic surrounding her, Allen becomes the perfect politician herself; self-aware but not permanently assured, coy in the most matter-of-fact sense. As she dashes off well-rehearsed answers to a jaded Gary Oldman it doesn't feel triumphant as much as it does a massive inner-struggle, both to tread a line of uniformity that she isn't comfortable with hugging, and her requirement to address wholly trivial matters.
Politicians have to feel credible but do we really need to know them? It's a startling achievement that Allen is able to sidestep her film's stolid, cutthroat environment, independently crafting a different dimension for her film. While "The Contender" looks to politicise Laine as a woman above all this cocksure banter, she moors her into a blank canvas, undoubtedly superior but always keen to learn. Plenty can take notes here; Allen may not quite have my vote in 2000, but she's a candidate well worth endorsing.