Of the seven actresses who won at the 76th Golden Globes on Sunday evening, six were above the age of 40.
The first major awards ceremony of the season raised more than a few eyebrows this year, as director Bryan Singer was conspicuously absent from the acceptance speeches of Rami Malek and his Bohemian Rhapsody colleagues. But solace was found in this resounding if somewhat unsung triumph for women in Hollywood.
Golden Globes host Sandra Oh joined winners Patricia Arquette and Patricia Clarkson for their roles in TV hits Killing Eve, Escape At Dannemora and Sharp Objects respectively; Glenn Close summoned tears and a standing ovation following her first-time win for The Wife; and Best Supporting Actress Regina King used the platform to pledge for gender equality in her future projects.
It was the home win of the night, however, that lit the brightest beacon for change. The talents of Olivia Colman are unshakable, her performance as the fickle Queen Anne in Yorgos Lanthimos’s The Favourite setting the bar impossibly high for the rest of the year – but her career trajectory has been remarkable.
Once a brilliant but secondary character in a string of Channel 4 sitcoms and British indie films, Colman has indeed won Baftas and even another Golden Globe in 2017 for her turn in The Night Manager. But she was flung into orbit at the Venice Film Festival last year when her Best Actress win saw those awards season ripples begin to form.
Now Sophie from Peep Show could win an Oscar, a reality that even a few years ago would have felt like a delicious but distant fantasy.
To mark the changes in Hollywood one needs look back only as far as 2015, when a five-minute clip from sketch show Inside Amy Schumer went viral. Starring former Globes host Tina Fey, Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Patricia Arquette, the skit drily picks apart the media industry’s ability to phase out women past a certain age as the actresses celebrate Louis-Dreyfus’ “last f*ckable day”.
Since then, the landscape for women in film has been whipped up into a sandstorm of pained accusations, ugly confessions, and a resounding call for change in the shape of the Time’s Up and Me Too movements.
The number of films directed by women in 2018 dipped by 3 per cent from the previous year. But a fresh eagerness can be felt in the stories told onscreen and by the actresses telling them, many of whom have cleared the millennial-age box.
Cynics may have written off last year’s Oscar victories for Frances McDormand and Allison Janney as merely voters leaning into the zeitgeist, but Sunday’s wins serve as a pointer to the year ahead.
In January alone Nicole Kidman stars in Karyn Kusama’s hard-boiled cop drama Destroyer and Jennifer Lopez proves life gets better at 40 in feel-good caper Second Act; while further into 2019 audiences will definitive performances from Regina Hall in Support The Girls, Maggie Gyllenhaal in The Kindergarten Teacher and Julianne Moore in Gloria Bell. On TV, Meryl Streep joins the cast of HBO’s Big Little Lies, and Louis-Dreyfus proves the antithesis of her Inside Amy Schumer cameo by reprising the role of Selina Meyer in Veep.
Such projects may lack the box office allure of the female-fronted blockbuster or remake – yet what they lack in competing profitability they make up for in persistence, withstanding waves of controversy and prejudice with a strength that’s causing people to sit up and notice. Awards ceremonies are notorious in stoking such flaws in the film industry, but through recognising these resilient, diverse performances, they finally seem to be getting something right.