Brow Beat

Olivia Colman’s Win Was the Oscars’ Biggest Surprise. Her Response Was Everything an Awards Speech Should Be.

Olivia Colman accepts the award for Best Actress.
Olivia Colman accepts the award for Best Actress.
Valerie Macon/AFP/Getty Images

Well, The Favourite didn’t win Best Picture, continuing the Oscars’ 68-year streak of not recognizing women’s stories as being worth the biggest prize. But in the night’s biggest and most delightful surprise, the film’s Queen Anne, Olivia Colman, upset seven-time nominee Glenn Close to win Best Actress.

It was a much-needed win for a fantastic movie that had otherwise been blanked for the evening, despite leading the nominations pack, and if it was a bummer to watch poor Close get bypassed again, the joy of seeing one of the great living actresses rewarded for an unrestrained, unfussy, richly emotional performance more than made up for it.

And then Colman gave the speech of the night:

Seemingly unrehearsed, sincere, emotional, effortlessly comic, Colman delivered just about everything people who actually like awards shows want out of an awards show. “This is hilarious,” she said, a kind of echo of Kacey Musgraves’ now-iconic “What? What?” after she won Album of the Year at the Grammys. She did funnier versions of the bits everyone does: the “my kids are watching” bit, the “I’m sorry I beat you Glenn Close” bit, the “I love my spouse” bit. (“He’s gonna cry!” she trilled, and he stiff-upper-lipped, and that was their whole marriage right there in that little exchange.) She referred to her time as a cleaner, when “I did spend quite a lot of my time imagining this,” then blew a raspberry at the please wrap up prompter.

Before Colman was the extremely serious star of Broadchurch and The Night Manager, she was a workaday comic actress: a supporting player on the British sketch show That Mitchell and Webb Look, the woman who interviews David Brent in The Office, Doris the extremely inappropriate cop in Hot Fuzz. (She apparently spent several years not getting jobs because of this car insurance ad, which blanketed the British airwaves in 2004.) Her speech convinced me and everyone else watching that this world-class actor, who delivered a focused, intense performance in a demented art film, was just a regular gal with whom it’d be quite fun to have a glass of wine.

And this was before she ended her speech with the perfect exit line: “Lady Gaga,” she said in wonderment, then wandered off the stage. When next you are in a difficult situation, perhaps breaking up with an unsatisfying boyfriend or delivering a closing argument at an embezzlement trial, remember this move. “Lady Gaga,” you can declare, and leave the room a hero.

tweets reading "Lady Gaga" is an incredible out line for an awards speech. Unimproveable.

Subscribe to Slate’s Culture newsletter for the best of movies, TV, books, music, and more, delivered twice a week.