By Mark Pinkert
At the ripe age of 79, Judi Dench could become the second oldest woman to win the Academy Award for Best Actress. She’s a likely nominee by way of Philomena (2013), a British comedy-drama in which Philomena Lee (Dench) pairs up with an out-of-work journalist, Martin Sixsmith (Steve Coogan), to find the son she was forced to give up 50 years earlier. An Academy win would make Dench the second oldest Best Actress behind only Jessica Tandy, who won the award at the age of 80 as Mrs. Daisy Werthan in Driving Miss Daisy (1989), and only the third Best Actress to receive the award while over the age of 65 (Katharine Hepburn won for On Golden Pond (1981) when she was 74 years old).
Dench–known more for her icy, matriarchal roles–is illuminated and humorous in Philomena, and she handles this role with great dexterity. But while she’s an almost guaranteed Best Actress nom, the film itself seems to be on the Best Picture bubble, and will have a tough time squeezing past the likes of Inside Llewyn Davis or Dallas Buyers Club. This despite the fact that the Academy voting body is notoriously known for being very old and very white, and often voting that way.