To Leslie

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To Leslie
To leslie.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byMichael Morris
Written byRyan Binaco
Produced by
  • Claude Dal Farra
  • Brian Keady
  • Kelsey Law
  • Philip Waley
  • Jason Shuman
  • Eduardo Cisneros
CinematographyLarkin Seiple
Edited byChris McCaleb
Music byLinda Perry
  • BlueWater Lane Productions
  • Jason Shuman Productions
  • Eduardo Cisneros Productions
  • BCDF Pictures
  • Clair de Lune Entertainment
  • Baral Waley Productions
Distributed byMomentum Pictures
Release dates
  • March 12, 2022 (2022-03-12) (SXSW)
  • October 7, 2022 (2022-10-07) (United States)
Running time
119 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Budget<$1 million[2]
Box office$31,543[3]

To Leslie is a 2022 American independent drama film directed by Michael Morris (in his feature directorial debut), from a screenplay by Ryan Binaco. The film stars Andrea Riseborough as Leslie Rowland, a single mother and alcoholic who squanders all the prize money she received after winning the lottery. She soon finds the chance to redeem herself when a motel owner offers her a job. Allison Janney, Marc Maron, Andre Royo, Owen Teague, and Stephen Root are featured in supporting roles.

To Leslie premiered at South by Southwest on March 12, 2022 and was given a limited release on October 7, 2022 by Momentum Pictures. The film received critical acclaim, with Riseborough's performance garnering widespread praise and a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Actress.[4]


Leslie is a troubled and manipulative alcoholic from West Texas who won $190,000 in a local lottery, only to squander the winnings on liquor and drugs. Six years later, Leslie is destitute, living a peripatetic life in motels and on the streets. After being kicked out of a residential motel, she reunites with her estranged 20-year-old son James, who allows her to live with him under the provision that she not drink. Leslie soon steals money from James's roommate Darren, and James discovers liquor bottles under her bed, leading him to call his grandmother and Leslie's friend Nancy for help.

Nancy and her boyfriend Dutch reluctantly allow Leslie to stay with them, but lock her out in the middle of the night when she visits the local bar and is spotted by Pete, one of their friends. Leslie sleeps outside next to a motel, where she is found at dawn by Sweeney, one of the proprietors. He orders her to leave, and she flees, leaving her suitcase behind. She is met outside a convenience store that night by Pete, who buys her food, but Leslie again flees when he attempts to make sexual advances toward her.

Leslie returns to the motel in search of her suitcase, and the benevolent Sweeney impulsively offers her a job cleaning rooms in exchange for a small wage and boarding. Royal, who helps run the motel with Sweeney, is cold toward Leslie, whom he has known since childhood. Leslie is frequently unpunctual to her duties, and she continues to spend her earnings on alcohol, often going to bars. Late one night, Leslie drunkenly wanders to the home where she raised James, startling the family who now lives there. The homeowners phone Sweeney, who returns Leslie to the roadhouse.

Disappointed by Leslie's lack of commitment, Sweeney intends to fire her, but he relents when she assures him she intends to change her ways. With nowhere left to turn, Leslie attempts to focus on her job and maintain sobriety as she suffers through alcohol withdrawal. Leslie and Sweeney develop a friendship, bonding over their mutual history of addiction. Leslie accompanies Sweeney to a fair, where she meets his daughter and granddaughter. Leslie gets into a confrontation with Nancy at the fair, who lambasts her in front of Sweeney for having abandoned James when he was a child.

Later that day, Leslie quits her job at the motel. She phones James from a laundromat, leaving a message telling him she loves him, then visits a bar, where she is hit on by a handsome but roguish younger man. She orders a beer, but decides not to drink it. Meanwhile, Sweeney searches for Leslie and arrives at the bar, but she has left. Leslie squats in an abandoned ice cream shop across the street from the motel and watches as Sweeney returns. In the morning, she awakens Sweeney and tells him she wants to renovate the ice cream shop and open a diner.

Ten months later, Leslie is sober, and with Sweeney and Royal's help, she has fixed up the building and turned it into a diner. On opening day, Leslie receives no customers. Nancy arrives that evening at closing time, and Leslie accuses her of sabotaging the business's opening by telling the locals not to go. Instead of responding with rage, Nancy apologizes to Leslie for not being emotionally present throughout Leslie's life. Nancy also surprises Leslie by revealing she has brought James with her. Royal and Sweeney prepare a meal for them, and the two embrace.



In July 2019, it was announced Andrea Riseborough had joined the cast of the film, with Michael Morris directing from a screenplay by Ryan Binaco.[5] In June 2020, Allison Janney and John Hawkes joined the cast of the film.[6] In December 2020, Marc Maron and Stephen Root joined the cast of the film, with Maron replacing Hawkes.[7] The film was shot in Los Angeles over the course of 19 days during the COVID-19 pandemic, on a budget of less than $1 million.[2][8] Music supervisor Linda Perry wrote the original song "Angels Are Falling", which is performed by Patty Griffin, for the film.[9]


The film had its world premiere at South by Southwest on March 12, 2022.[10] In September 2022, Momentum Pictures acquired distribution rights to the film, giving it a limited theatrical and on-demand streaming release on October 7, 2022.[11] Following the announcement of Riseborough's Oscar nomination, the film was re-released to six theaters, making an estimated $2,500 to $5,000 over the January 27–29 weekend.[12]


Andrea Riseborough's performance garnered critical acclaim, earning her an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress.

On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, 95% of 81 critics' reviews are positive, with an average rating of 7.6/10. The website's consensus reads, "To Leslie's familiar framework is granted extra depth through a stellar Andrea Riseborough and a sensitive and nuanced approach to the cycle of addiction."[13] Metacritic, which uses a weighted average, assigned the film a score of 84 out of 100, based on 19 critics, indicating "universal acclaim".[14]

Richard Roeper from the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film a perfect 4 out of 4 star rating, and wrote: "Every character in To Leslie feels 'lived-in.' Every scene rings true, sometimes in surprising ways." He also singled out Riseborough's performance as "one of the great portrayals of alcoholism in a miniature masterpiece of quietly powerful dialogue."[15] Owen Gleiberman, writing for Variety, stated: "Riseborough's performance is nothing short of spectacular. She doesn't compromise, she doesn't hold back, but she doesn't endow the character with any sort of fake flamboyance."[16] The New York Times praised Riseborough's "deft performance" as Leslie, and described the film as a "deceptively simple yet heart-wrenching character study."[17]

In his review of the film following Riseborough's Oscar nomination, Peter Travers stated: "Riseborough's portrayal of addiction is unmatched since Nicolas Cage won an Oscar for Leaving Las Vegas." "Whether or not Riseborough pulls off a longshot victory at the Oscars, she's created a portrayal that plays like a classic country song you can't get out of your head and heart. In a movie rescued from oblivion, Riseborough is unmissable and unforgettable."[18]

Best Actress nomination[edit]

As Momentum Pictures did not fund a conventional, advertising-driven awards campaign for the film, director Michael Morris and his wife, actress Mary McCormack, organized a "celeb-backed campaign" to get Riseborough nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actress.[8][19] They contacted friends and colleagues in the entertainment industry, asking them to view the film and share it with others if they enjoyed it.[20] Morris and Riseborough also hired publicists to coordinate the efforts.[20] While theretofore not widely seen or regarded as a serious awards contender, the campaign successfully raised the film's profile as dozens of celebrities publicly praised it and Riseborough's performance on social media; some also hosted screenings during voting for the Academy Award nominations in January 2023.[21][22] Riseborough was nominated for the award on January 24, which the Los Angeles Times called "one of the most shocking nominations in Oscar history".[20][4]

After the nomination was announced, there was speculation within the media and the film industry that the tactics may have violated an Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences rule against directly lobbying voters.[23] Academy rules forbid individuals from giving "their personal signature, personal regards, or pleas to watch the film" in campaign-related communications.[24] A post on the film's Instagram account was also subject to criticism, for possibly violating an Academy rule against "[singling] out 'the competition' by name"; the post featured a quote from film critic Richard Roeper, who praised Riseborough's performance as better than Cate Blanchett's in Tár, a fellow nominee for Best Actress.[25] On January 27, the Academy announced that they were "conducting a review of the campaign procedures around this year's nominees, to ensure that no guidelines were violated, and to inform us whether changes to the guidelines may be needed in a new era of social media and digital communication".[26]

The Academy occasionally rescinds nominations if it is found that the nominee participated in unsanctioned campaigning. However, there were no reports that Riseborough had done so, or that any Academy members had lodged formal complaints about the campaign's behavior; consequently, Clayton Davis of Variety and Pete Hammond of Deadline Hollywood both predicted that the nomination would be unaffected.[19][26] On January 31, the Academy concluded its review by pledging to address "social media and outreach campaigning tactics" which they said caused "concern", but confirming that Riseborough's nomination would be retained.[27]


Award ceremony Date of ceremony Category Recipient Result Ref.
Academy Awards March 12, 2023 Best Actress Andrea Riseborough Nominated [28]
Capri Hollywood International Film Festival Awards January 2, 2023 Capri Special Award for Best Feature Film Michael Morris Won [29]
Chicago Film Critics Association Awards December 14, 2022 Best Actress Andrea Riseborough Nominated [30]
Chlotrudis Awards March 19, 2023 Best Actress Nominated [31]
Best Supporting Actress Allison Janney Nominated
Gijón International Film Festival Awards November 19, 2022 Best Actor Marc Maron Won [32]
Best Actress Andrea Riseborough Won
Independent Spirit Awards March 4, 2023 Best Lead Performance Nominated [33]
National Board of Review Awards January 8, 2023 Top Ten Independent Films To Leslie Placed [34]
Raindance Film Festival Awards November 4, 2022 Film of the Festival Michael Morris Won [35]
Best Performance Andrea Riseborough Won


  1. ^ "To Leslie". South by Southwest. Retrieved March 17, 2022.
  2. ^ a b Seth, Radhika (February 2, 2023). "Can Andrea Riseborough Actually Win An Oscar For To Leslie?". British Vogue. Retrieved February 2, 2023.
  3. ^ "To Leslie (2023)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved January 28, 2023.
  4. ^ a b "The 95th Academy Awards". Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. Retrieved January 24, 2023.
  5. ^ D'Alessandro, Anthony (July 25, 2019). "Andrea Riseborough To Star In Michael Morris' Real-Life-Inspired Drama 'To Leslie'". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved March 17, 2022.
  6. ^ Wiseman, Andreas (June 11, 2020). "John Hawkes & Allison Janney Join Andrea Riseborough In True Story 'To Leslie'; Mister Smith & UTA Board Sales — Cannes". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved March 17, 2022.
  7. ^ D'Alessandro, Anthony (December 16, 2020). "Marc Maron & Stephen Root Join Andrea Riseborough In Drama 'To Leslie'". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved March 17, 2022.
  8. ^ a b Malkin, Marc (January 27, 2023). "How Andrea Riseborough Got That Surprise Oscar Nomination for 'To Leslie'". Variety. Retrieved January 27, 2023.
  9. ^ Papadatos, Markos (January 11, 2023). "ENTERTAINMENTReview: 'To Leslie' is an Oscar-worthy film by Michael Morris". Digital Journal. Retrieved February 26, 2023.
  10. ^ D'Alessandro, Anthony (February 2, 2022). "SXSW's Lineup For Return To In-Person Festival Includes Movies With Sandra Bullock, Nicolas Cage, Pete Davidson, Rose Byrne & More". Deadline. Retrieved March 17, 2022.
  11. ^ Lang, Brent (September 7, 2022). "Momentum Pictures Buys 'To Leslie,' Drama With Andrea Riseborough (EXCLUSIVE)". Variety. Retrieved September 7, 2022.
  12. ^ McClintock, Pamela (January 29, 2023). "'Avatar 2' Flies Past 'Star Wars: Force Awakens' at Global Box Office, 'To Leslie' Disappears". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved January 29, 2023.
  13. ^ "To Leslie". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved January 26, 2023.
  14. ^ "To Leslie". Metacritic. Fandom, Inc. Retrieved January 26, 2023.
  15. ^ Roeper, Richard (October 21, 2022). "'To Leslie': As broken-down drunk, Andrea Riseborough does a top-notch job of bottoming out". Chicago Sun-Times. Archived from the original on October 21, 2022. Retrieved January 24, 2023.
  16. ^ Gleiberman, Owen (March 25, 2022). "'To Leslie' Review: Andrea Riseborough Takes Raw Command in a Lacerating Drama of Alcoholism Run Amok". Variety. Archived from the original on January 23, 2023. Retrieved January 24, 2023.
  17. ^ July, Beandrea (October 6, 2022). "Review: In 'To Leslie,' an Unflinching Working-Class Elegy". The New York Times. Archived from the original on October 18, 2022. Retrieved January 24, 2023.
  18. ^ Travers, Peter (January 27, 2023). "Review: Andrea Riseborough is unmissable and unforgettable in 'To Leslie'". ABC. Archived from the original on January 27, 2023. Retrieved February 12, 2023.
  19. ^ a b Hammond, Pete (January 27, 2023). "Oscars: Controversy Over 'To Leslie' Campaign Heats Up But Is It All Much Ado About Nothing?". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved February 2, 2023.
  20. ^ a b c Whipp, Glenn (January 24, 2023). "How Andrea Riseborough pulled off that shocking Oscar nomination". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved January 28, 2023.
  21. ^ Lattanzio, Ryan (January 17, 2023). "What the Hell Is Going on with Andrea Riseborough's Celebrity-Backed Oscar Campaign?". IndieWire. Retrieved January 20, 2023.
  22. ^ Jones, Nate (January 19, 2023). "Andrea Riseborough's One Week of Oscar Buzz: A Timeline". Vulture. Retrieved January 20, 2023.
  23. ^ Belloni, Matthew (January 27, 2023). "Was the Andrea Riseborough Oscar Campaign Illegal?". Puck. Retrieved January 27, 2023.
  24. ^ "REGULATIONS CONCERNING THE PROMOTION OF FILMS ELIGIBLE FOR THE 94th ACADEMY AWARDS®" (PDF). Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. June 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  25. ^ Davis, Clayton (January 27, 2023). "'To Leslie' Instagram Post Referencing Cate Blanchett Could Factor Into Academy Board Meeting". Variety. Retrieved February 2, 2023.
  26. ^ a b Davis, Clayton (January 27, 2023). "Academy 'Conducting Review' After Andrea Riseborough's Surprise Oscar Nomination". Variety. Retrieved January 27, 2023.
  27. ^ Davis, Clayton; Donnelly, Chase (January 31, 2023). "Andrea Riseborough Will Retain Oscar Nomination, but Social Media Offenders Will be Addressed by Film Academy". Variety. Retrieved January 31, 2023.
  28. ^ Moreau, Jordan (January 24, 2023). "Oscar Nominations 2023: The Full List". Variety. Retrieved January 24, 2023.
  29. ^ ""Elvis" di Baz Luhrmann trionfa a Capri, Hollywood" [Baz Luhrmann's "Elvis" triumphs at Capri, Hollywood]. La Repubblica (in Italian). January 4, 2023. Retrieved January 26, 2023.
  30. ^ Tallerico, Brian (December 12, 2022). "Everything Everywhere All at Once Leads Chicago Film Critics Nominations". Archived from the original on December 12, 2022. Retrieved January 14, 2023.
  31. ^ Colford, Michael (January 31, 2023). "Chlotrudis Society for Independent Film Announces 2022 Award Noms for 29th Year – 'Aftersun' Basks in the Glow". Chlotrudis Society for Independent Films. Retrieved February 3, 2023.
  32. ^ Sandoval, Pablo (November 20, 2022). "Ulrich Seidl Wins Spain's Gijón, Slams Der Spiegel". Variety. Retrieved January 14, 2023.
  33. ^ Davis, Clayton (November 22, 2022). "Independent Spirit Awards Nominations: 'Everything Everywhere' Leads With Eight Noms". Variety. Retrieved January 14, 2023.
  34. ^ Lewis, Hilary (December 8, 2022). "National Board of Review Names 'Top Gun: Maverick' Best Film". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved January 14, 2023.
  35. ^ Ramachandran, Naman (November 4, 2022). "'To Leslie,' 'Karaoke' Win Top Awards at Raindance Film Festival". Variety. Retrieved January 14, 2023.

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