Keisha Castle-Hughes became the youngest person to receive a Best Actress nomination. She received the acclaim for playing Pai, a girl trying to live up to her grandfather's expectations in the movie Whale Rider. This nomination is also kind of odd as she campaigned in the supporting category so not many saw her nomination coming. However, I really can't decide if the Academy preferred her or Samantha Morton. I guess Morton got more votes, mostly because she was much better-known than Keisha Caste-Hughes.
Whale Rider is a beautiful movie. Although sometimes I felt it was the kind of movie that the Channel 2 of the Hungarian National Television shows on Saturday at 11 PM (= an art movie shown late at night on a channel that nobody watches), I found it really beautiful and pure. The direction avoids being sentimental and that's probably why I loved the movie. There was nothing really artificial about it and everything seemed so natural. Many say it's a family movie but it's not something that I wuold watch with my child (I think it would be incredibly boring for a kid). The actors give proper performances though this isn't really an actor's movie.
That brings me to Keisha Castle-Hughes. I haven't heard much about her, except that she had a baby at 17 and that she starred as Virgin Mary (I think she really was the best choice to play a 14-15-year-old girl, not some 30-year-old Hollywood actress with tons of make-up and lots of lipstick like in the old epics). I think she really has talent but I don't feel that it's that often used. Still, I'm here to talk about one particular performance of hers that helped her to an Oscar nomination.
I've already said that Whale Rider wasn't an actor's movie and that also applies to Keisha Castle-Hughes, in my opinion. This is the kind of movie that has its effect on you with its complexity, the combination of directing, music, cinematography and acting. The individual achievements don't stand out alone, however, together they really do. Castle-Hughes campaigned in supporting for two reasons I think. First, she was a child adn had a better chance in supporting (we know this). Second, Pai doesn't stand out in the story. She may have a crucial part but it's not really emotional or showy.
Some are complaining that her acting is a little bit obvious due to the fact that she's a child. However, I never had any problems with that. Actually, I felt that she acted very naturally and nailed the more emotional scenes. I think she showed well how much Pai wants to gain the love and acceptance of her grandfather. Their relationship on the screen works quite well and I really felt the silent tension between them. I liked how she showed Pai's devotion towards her family. She wants to be the member of the community, she wants to be equal.
There's something so beautiful in this part. I guess it's in its simplicity and naturality. I loved that it wasn't about Oscar or the effect. It was about serving the movie and it did it wonderfully without anything off or unnatural. The development of Pai is also excellent. Keisha showed us the journey of Pai excellently, very rare for such a young actress. I guess it was also about my taste, I like these kind of spiritual movies (and performances). I was amazed how well she understood the point of the movie.
My complaint could be that she's not that outstanding (as I said). Although this performance offers some beautiful, emotional scenes (like her monologue in the end), there wasn't a point when I was totally blown away and captivated by the work. Actually, I was captivated to a degree but not completely, I was still aware that this wasn't reality (I totally lost my sense of reality while watching Theron, for example).
Keisha Castle-Hughes, however, still stands out in the awful field of 2003. Although this is not one of the greatest performances, she still turned in a beautiful work, full of substance. The great parts make up for the weaknesses and overall it's a really great job by an extremely young talent.
When I started, I thought this would be a 3,5 but in the end this was the obvious choice.
What do you think? The Final Conclusion comes soon.