In the little-discussed film "Ginger & Rosa," the young actress —14 now, 13 at the time of filming, 16 in character — delivers a performance that I would put in a tier with the finest lead female efforts I've personally seen this year. That's a group that alphabetically includes Marion Cotillard ("Rust & Bone"), Keira Knightley ("Anna Karenina"), Emmanuelle Riva ("Amour"), Quvenzhane Wallis ("Beasts of the Southern Wild"), Naomi Watts ("The Impossible") and Michelle Williams ("Take This Waltz").
Yes, there's some whittling to do in that group and other work still to be seen — such as Jennifer Lawrence in "Silver Linings Playbook," but I'm not sure that at the end of the slicing and dicing that Fanning, who builds upon her muted supporting role in Sofia Coppola's "Somewhere," won't belong in the final five. (Whether she gets there, given the low profile of "Ginger & Rosa," is another matter.)
Written and directed by Sally Potter ("Orlando"), "Ginger & Rosa" starts out focused on the friendship between the two title characters, played by Fanning and 18-year-old Alice Englert, the daughter of director Jane Campion. Though Englert's Rosa remains integral to the story (alongside co-stars Alessandro Nivola, Christina Hendricks, Timothy Spall, Oliver Platt, Annette Bening and Jodhi May), Fanning takes over the film, step by step, Ginger's crisis becoming more complex and seemingly hopeless, leading to a climax whose heat I swear I could feel on my face. It was that stunning.
My colleague and Variety senior film critic Peter Debruge would disagree with me on the merits of the entire enterprise, and given the film has an uphill battle simply gaining exposure with Oscar voters, it can't afford to have that kind of polarity. But I'd encourage you to give it a look. The work at first might not seem big, but it just grows and grows as it goes.
Below, an interview from the Variety Studio at the Toronto Film Festival with "Ginger & Rosa" director Sally Potter and actor Alessandro Nivola.