There has been criticism over Lupita Nyong'o winning the Oscar at this early stage in her career and from a performance that was so brief.
To those critics, I say that many have done the same and some have done so in even less time!
As William Holden's wife in NETWORK (1976), Beatrice Straight was the sole voice of reason in that hyperbolic movie. She broke our hearts in 6 minutes!
As Queen Elizabeth in SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE (1998), Judi Dench did her haiku voodoo in 8 minutes flat!
Financing a film is a delicate process and passion projects can take years to get off of the ground. Brad Pitt produced 12 YEARS A SLAVE (2013) and was on screen for the last 20 minutes of the film, as well. His contributions led to his Best Picture Oscar, and none can say he did not earn it!
Anthony Hopkins won the Best Actor Oscar for THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS (1991) and he was on screen for 17 minutes! Also, he only blinked once!
All of which brings us back around to YENTL. This was Barbra Streisand's passion project for 15 years, and she poured all of her talents into it. One need go no further than YENTL to see how multi-talented Streisand is.
However, very few films benefit from having a star be in every scene. No matter how good the star is, films have the luxury of taking us across the universe in two hours, and many of the best films do precisely that.
Paul Dano played Eli Sunday in THERE WILL BE BLOOD (2007), and while Daniel Day-Lewis's character aged noticeably over the decades when the movie took place, Dano's character did not. This was a huge disconnect from the otherwise-propulsive narrative of the movie, but it did assist Day-Lewis in his successful Oscar bid for Best Actor.
Dano later played an abusive slave driver in 12 YEARS A SLAVE (2013) and he was infinitely more effective in a fraction of the screen time. Quantity does not always equal quality in a performance!
Lupita Nyong'o will be tempted to be in practically every scene in AMERICANAH, but I would caution her against the excesses of such an approach. YENTL was all-Streisand-all-the-time and could have used much more variety in the telling. Also, while Nyong'o's beauty is timeless, she must be prepared to materially modify her appearance as Day-Lewis did in THERE WILL BE BLOOD in order to capture the 14 year time span depicted in AMERICANAH. Otherwise, like Dano her co-star in 12 YEARS A SLAVE found out, she will cause more confusion in the movie's narrative than she will deliver clarity.
AMERICANAH is a sprawling love story and will resonate with audiences proportionately to the clarity with which it is told!
Having worked on the production of THE CONSTANT GARDENER (2005), Nyong'o already knows that a love story which covers a number of years requires great care to succeed.
Rachel Weisz won Best Supporting Actress for THE CONSTANT GARDENER, so Nyong'o has firsthand knowledge of how an Oscar can fortify or derail a career.
May Nyong'o's journey with AMERICANAH be fleet-footed and fruitful! :D