The reviews (and box office) are in: the live-action The Little Mermaid is a hit. With a fresh 68% on Rotten Tomatoes – making it one of the highest rated live-action remakes yet – and a $117 million Memorial Day opening weekend, Disney can celebrate yet another successful live-action adaptation (international hate campaigns be damned), and a star has been officially born in Halle Bailey. Even mixed-to-negative reviews of the movie have praised Bailey’s note-perfect lead performance – which balances Ariel’s headstrong spirit with her childlike curiosity and naïveté brilliantly and gives this generation an inspiring new interpretation of this character – and it’s clear that the sky is the limit for her from here on out. But, naturally, with such high praise, many often start to turn to “awards talk” as well, especially as The Little Mermaid may find itself “in the conversation” this season for its trio of original songs too. While this isn’t likely the type of film to work itself into the above-the-line categories at the Oscars, there is an awards ceremony that exclusively celebrates musicals where it could – and should – show up: The Golden Globes.
Thus far, only one of Disney’s live-action remakes has earned a Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy nomination at the Golden Globes, and it wasn’t one of the musicals, but instead 2010’s Alice in Wonderland (with Johnny Depp earning a Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy nomination as well). There was some chatter for Angelina Jolie to receive an acting nomination for 2014’s Maleficent – as well as Emma Watson for 2017’s Beauty and the Beast – but neither nod materialized, and Emma Stone was the next actor to receive a Golden Globe acting nomination in the Musical or Comedy categories for a Disney live-action adaptation for 2021’s Cruella (which was, again, not one of their musicals). However, there’s a real case to be made for Bailey to be in the mix this year. For one, the HFPA loves to anoint new stars, which Bailey undoubtedly is – aside from her supporting role in this December’s hotly anticipated The Color Purple, it’s only a matter of time before she starts lining up a slew of other major roles and cements herself even further as a generational talent. But additionally, when looking ahead at the competition to come in the Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy category, you start to see Bailey’s path a bit better.
Two of the first names that come to mind as potential nominees are The Color Purple‘s Fantasia Barrino and Barbie‘s Margot Robbie. They’re starring in two of the most talked-about potential awards contenders of the year and have two of the biggest and baitiest parts in the bunch, so I’d tentatively slot them in for now. Beyond them, I’d say Poor Things‘ Emma Stone is a solid bet. Although the film, from The Favourite‘s Yorgos Lanthimos, will be a bit of a “weird one” that might not be as big of an awards contender across-the-board as his last project, Stone is an HFPA darling who can likely live beyond its own reception with a tonally tricky role she’s sure to succeed in. And that brings us to spots four and five, which could be filled with a number of names. If the Globes go the indie route, there’s You Hurt My Feelings‘ Julia Louis-Dreyfus or Drive Away Dolls’ Margaret Qualley and Geraldine Viswanathan. If they select an actress from a studio film, Sony has two compelling contenders in the form of No Hard Feelings‘ Jennifer Lawrence and Anyone But You‘s Sydney Sweeney. And maybe Luca Guadagnino’s Challengers – said to be a “romantic sports dramedy” – submits itself in these categories and Zendaya throws her hat in the ring?
It’s not a done deal – nothing is in May – but Bailey undoubtedly has a hit on her hands with this The Little Mermaid and the rave reviews are there to at least keep her in the conversation until the end of the year and ultimately even help her potentially edge out some top-tier competitors at the Golden Globes, depending on how the season shakes out. Though they may not see eye-to-eye on certain elements of the film, crowds and critics do agree on one thing: Halle Bailey is a bonafide movie star, and The Little Mermaid is only the start of her soon-to-be celebrated career. And whether she nabs that Golden Globe nomination this December or now, she’s already announced herself as a tremendous new talent on the rise.