A ‘true powerhouse,’ Filipino actress Dolly de Leon gets Oscar buzz for role in Cannes film


Posted at May 25 2022 04:33 PM

Filipino actress Dolly De Leon AFP
Filipino actress Dolly De Leon speaks during a press conference for the film "Triangle of Sadness" at the 75th edition of the Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, southern France, on May 22, 2022. Julie Sebadelha, AFP

Filipino actress Dolly de Leon deserves an Oscar for her performance in “Triangle of Sadness,” a Swedish film by acclaimed writer-director Ruben Östlund, at least according to a review following the movie’s Cannes premiere.

De Leon is the lone Filipino cast member of the social satire, which debuted this week at the ongoing Cannes Film Festival as part of the main competition.

“Triangle of Sadness” is set on a luxury cruise “with a rogues’ gallery of super-rich passengers, a Russian oligarch, British arms dealers and an idiosyncratic, alcoholic, Marx-quoting captain,” according to its Cannes synopsis.

De Leon portrays Abigail, a toilet cleaner on the yacht whose skills become vital to survival when the group gets stranded on an island.

“Hierarchy is suddenly flipped upside down, as the housekeeper is the the only one who knows how to fish.”

As “Triangle of Sadness” premiered at the prestigious festival, critics took note of de Leon’s effective portrayal as Abigail, which Variety’s Clayton Davis described as worthy of recognition from the Academy Awards.

“Her small stature does not hold her back from becoming the acting giant of the sprawling tale,” Davis wrote in his review of the film.

The review noted that de Leon is likely a “frontrunner” for the top acting prize in the Academy Awards, alongside fellow Asian actress Michelle Yeoh, who stars in the multiverse film “Everything Everywhere All At Once.”

(From L) Swedish film director and screenwriter Ruben Ostlund, South African model and actress Charlbi Dean, Swedish actor Henrik Dorsin, Danish actress Vicki Berlin, Swedish actor Arvin Kananian, US actor Woody Harrelson, Filipino actress Dolly de Leon and Swiss actress Sunnyi Melles arrive for the screening of the film "Triangle of Sadness" during the 75th edition of the Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, southern France, on May 21, 2022. Valery Hache, AFP

“Her committed turn not only makes her the defining supporting performance of the year thus far, but also, if enough Academy members make a note to focus on quality (and not simply name recognition as they can often do), she could be the frontrunner walking into awards season. In supporting actress, only two Asian actresses have ever won the award (Miyoshi Umeki for ‘Sayonara’ and Yuh Jung Youn for ‘Minari’).

“Wouldn’t it be amazing to see De Leon, in addition to Michelle Yeoh, a leading actress contender for A24’s 'Everything Everywhere All at Once,’ make history for the AAPI community, who are too often ignored?” Davis said.

Indie Wire’s David Ehrlich similarly had glowing words for de Leon, whose portrayal he credited for making a twist in the story worthwhile.

“It wouldn’t be worth getting there at all if not for the great Filipino actress Dolly de Leon, who rises from the bowels of the superyacht, grabs this film by the throat, and chokes it so hard that you can’t help but feel a faint pulse throbbing to life from under all that irony.

“If not for de Leon’s bold and heartsick performance, ‘Triangle of Sadness’ would fail to achieve any real measure of the physical discomfort that has animated so much of Östlund’s previous work,” the review said.

De Leon was also described as “the true powerhouse” in the film, in another review from Evening Standard’s Iana Murray.

Commenting on performances of the cast members, the review said of the Filipino actress: “It’s Dolly De Leon who emerges as the true powerhouse, playing a pragmatic cleaner who exposes just how inept the rich and powerful are without paid staff to hold their hand.”

“Triangle of Sadness” earned an eight-minute standing ovation “after a lively screening that found the audience at Cannes’ Palais theater shrieking in horror and delight,” Variety reported.

Östlund, the director, previously won the festival top prize in Un Certain Regard for “Force Majeure” in 2014, and the Palme d’Or for the Academy Award-nominated “The Square” in 2017.