Last year Renee Zellweger won the Oscar for the best leading role when she portrayed the sad and addictive film and show talent Judy Garland in “Judy”. This year soul singer Andra Day could follow in her footsteps – as the powerful-voiced Billie Holiday.
At the center of the tale is Billie Holidays’ song “Strange Fruit” – a musical memorial against racially motivated lynchings with fans of all skin colors. It takes a while before we get to see the legendary song because, after all, there are people like Harry Anslinger at the FBI (Garrett Hedlund from “Tron”) who would rather not have it performed in public because of its socially critical potential.
Since the singer cannot be silenced even with a performance ban, a decoy is used: Agent Jimmie Fletcher from the Federal Bureau of Narcotics (FBN), gently played by Trevante Rhodes from “Moonlight”. He’s supposed to get the star off because of his drug problem.
Andra Day masters the vocal part with flying colors and plays the woman with the injured soul powerfully and unadorned. Dramaturgically, the film biography is not the great success of director Lee Daniels, with “Precious” already an Oscar nominee. Its main attraction is Andra Day, who does her work very well. She has already received the Golden Globe for her role as “Lady Day”. You can find out whether Andra Day wins or goes empty-handed on Oscar night in our live ticker.
But the competition in the Best Actress category is very stiff: Frances McDormand as the dropout in “Nomadland”, Viola Davis as the emancipated title character in “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom”, Vanessa Kirby, who had a stillbirth in “Pieces of a Woman” and Carey Mulligan as the vengeance angel in “Promising Young Woman”.