Movie Review: To Leslie

Andrea Riseborough has been in the entertainment news for the past week or so for all the wrong reasons. The British actress received a Best Actress Oscar nomination for her performance in TO LESLIE, a film that few people have heard of much less seen. That’s not why she’s in the news though. It seems there was a campaign of sorts launched by someone associated with the film to nominate her and some Hollywood A-Listers like Cate Blanchett, Amy Adams and Gwyneth Paltrow, to name a few, took to social media to sing her praises in the lead up to the voting. While there’s no evidence to suggest that Riseborough was behind the grassroots campaign, contacting Academy members to promote a film or push for an award is not allowed. After the nominations were announced, the Academy’s board of governors said they would investigate the matter and, if necessary, rescind Riseborough’s nomination. There is precedence to such an action. A similar incident took place in 2014 when it was discovered that composer Bruce Boughton had emailed his fellow music branch committee members to bring attention to his song, “Alone Yet Not Alone,” which had received an Oscar nomination for Best Original Song. While the song’s nomination was ultimately rescinded, it was announced yesterday that no action would be taken against Riseborough’s nomination. The Academy’s board of governors did say, however, that the lobbying rules would be tightened up going forward. But what about TO LESLIE? Is her performance is even worthy of a nomination?

Set in west Texas, TO LESLIE tells the story of Leslie Rowlands, a single mother who, when the film begins, has just won the lottery. Six years later, however, all the money is gone and she is homeless. Her estranged son, James (Owen Teague, the IT films), who is now 19, reluctantly agrees to take her in on the condition that she refrain from drinking alcohol but that proves to be something that Leslie just can’t do. Back out on the street, she is discovered by Sweeney (Marc Maron, JOKER), a recovering addict and co-owner of a rundown motel who agrees to provide her with a room and a job at the motel cleaning rooms. After a rocky start, Leslie slowly starts rebuilding her life and reconciling with the people she has hurt along the way, including James and her former friend, Nancy (Allison Janney, BOMBSHELL; I, TONYA).

On its own, TO LESLIE is a decent movie but how many times before have we seen a story about an alcoholic or drug abuser who seeks redemption? TO LESLIE adds nothing new to the conversation. As for Riseborough, the actress puts on a convincing Texas accent and wholly embraces her character’s White trashiness but, contrary to what the A-Listers tweeted out, her performance is not worthy of an Oscar nomination. Many Oscar pundits were surprised that she garnered more votes than Viola Davis (THE WOMAN KING) and Danielle Deadwyler (TILL). While both those movies were problematic, I would agree that their performances were more Oscar-worthy than Riseborough’s.

You can now decide for yourself. TO LESLIE is available for rent or purchase on Amazon Prime Video, Apple TV, Google Play and YouTube. I wasn’t impressed.

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