Psychiatrists disagree, but I'm almost 100% sure I have an obsessive personality. I will latch on to an actor or director, and marathon all of their life's work in as few nights as I can like a normal person would do a season of House of Cards. I did Jodie Foster's entire career in 2 weeks. Yep, even that 1972 episode of Kung Fu. This makes me a walking encyclopedia of Hollywood trivia, but also alienates my real life friends because it's weird. My obsessions this year have been actresses Charlize Theron, Emily Blunt, and most recently, Jessica Chastain. Instead of letting it fester inside, I figured I would spill it all to the internet. It's safer for me that way.
Jessica (can I call you Jessica?) is fairly new to the Hollywood A-List. Her debut performance was in 2008's Jolene, in which she played the title character. Jolene is the story of a sexually and emotionally abused teenage run-away. It's reminiscent of Charlize Theron's Monster, but slightly more lighthearted and without the murderer component.
Chastain went from being almost completely unknown to one of the most in-demand actresses out there after starring in Salome with Al Paccino (2011), Helen Mirren in The Debt (2010), and then alongside Brad Pitt in The Tree of Life (2011).
In The Debt, Chastain plays a younger version of Helen Mirren, a Mossad agent tasked with capturing a known Nazi still at large in Germany. It's action packed and Chastain proves that she has the physicality to rumble with the best of them. This performance is why she's one of my top picks for the Captain Marvel casting. I mean, she was born with a superhero's chin! The Debt has an intriguing plot line and even more intriguing characters. Also, Chastain's German accent is pretty solid.
The Tree of Life is a very moving film. All I could think when I was watching it was the word "profound." That's how I would describe it, "profound". It's the story of a man looking back on his childhood that he shared with his three brothers and parents. His mother (Chastain) is the embodiment of grace and light, while his father (Brad Pitt) has a difficult time balancing his version of what society thought a father should be at that time (1950's?) and the affection he felt for his sons. The differing approaches to parenting shape their sons each in a unique way. It's a story of love, loss, and growth. Although the format can be trying, if you think of it as more an "experience" than a movie and just let it wash over you rather than scrutinize under the confusion that comes with non-linear storytelling, you'll enjoy it a lot more. Trust me.
These performances catapulted her to stardom. She starred in 4 other movies that year (2011), including The Help for which she got her first supporting actress nomination at the Oscars. If you haven't seen The Help yet, stop reading this immediately and go watch it. It's rare for a film to be able to perfectly balance a message of social justice, comedy, and heart while keeping up an intriguing story. The Help features an all-star ensemble that includes Emma Stone, Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer, Allison Janney, Sissy Spacek, Bryce Dallas Howard, and of course, Jessica Chastain as Celia Foote, the most genuinely kind and innocent adult character I've seen on the big screen. She's so sweet, endearing, and utterly ridiculous that you can't HELP (get it?) but smile.
Although she didn't win the Oscar that year (it went to her costar Octavia Spencer), her performance left a permanent mark on the industry, and there was no where to go but up.
In 2012, she was in 4 more movies, the most significant being Zero Dark Thirty, the true story of a CIA operative that dedicated 11 years of her career to finding Osama Bin Laden. Chastain gave a brilliant and gritty performance, and received both a Golden Globe and Oscar nomination for lead actress. She won the Golden Globe but lost the Oscar to Jennifer Lawrence from Silver Linings Playbook. While I loved Silver Linings and I'm generally a big fan of Jennifer Lawrence, Jessica deserved it, especially since Lawrence was more of a supporting actress rather than a true lead.
In 2013 she was tasked with carrying the horror film Mama for producer Guillermo Del Toro. Del Toro creates a specific brand of horror that focuses more on suspense, performances, a solid story line, and practical effects than the traditional blood-and-guts genre leaders. I, myself, prefer psychological thrillers to horror so Del Toro's films are ones that I can watch and enjoy with just the right amount of jumps and heart-pounding moments to remind me that I'm alive without making me want to puke.
The rest of 2013 for Chastain was taken up by a 3-part movie called The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby (co-starring James MacAvoy and Viola Davis) which was unique in that it told the same story from 3 different perspectives (His, Hers, and Theirs). The film(s) centered around a young couple who had recently lost a child and were trying to re-ignite the spark that brought them together. They are very slow, but emotional, well made films that I would recommend if you have 4 hours of your life to spare (which evidently I did).
In 2014 Chastain returned to the blockbusters, but started off the year with a movie that should have won her a plethora of awards: Miss Julie. I understand why it went unnoticed by The Academy, though. No one saw it, and thick accents can be difficult to understand if you don't have much experience listening to them. Additionally, the film was similar to 2011's Carnage (starring Jodie Foster, John C. Riley, Christoph Waltz and Kate Winslet) in that it was a very strict adaptation of a stage play, so it was set in basically one room and consisted of mostly dialogue. Nevertheless, the three actors in the movie (yes there were only three), Chastain, Colin Ferrel, and Samantha Morton all gave impressive performances, Chastain most of all. The story is like a more tragic Romeo & Juliet and the character called for complicated, layered, larger than life personality and subsequent mental deterioration that could only be written about before modern psychiatry. She needed to bring a lot of energy and passion to the role, and she did just that.
That year (2014) she won the Critics Choice MVP award for her performances in A Most Violent Year (for which she also got a Golden Globe nomination) and Interstellar as well as Miss Julie.
In Interstellar, she plays Murphy Cooper, the daughter that Matthew McConaughey had to abandon on Earth when she was a little girl. Although Interstellar is not my favorite space movie (I prefer Gravity) because it tends to drag in parts, that's not to be blamed on Chastain or any of the cast for that matter. She, MacConaughey, Anne Hathaway and Michael Caine all gave award-worthy performances. Murphy's monologues to her "lost" father are absolutely heartbreaking and as a whole the movie is immensely moving and thought provoking.
She slowed down a little in 2015, only starring in two films- The Martian and Crimson Peak. The Martian was a huge box office hit, earning 597.1 million worldwide so far. The film is another great ensemble starring Matt Damon, Kate Mara, Kristen Wiig, Jeff Daniels, Sebastian Stan, (Chastain) and Sean Bean. Chastain plays Commander Melissa Lewis, who's forced to make the difficult decision to leave Mark Watney (Matt Damon) on Mars in order to save the rest of her crew.
Crimson Peak , another team-up between Chastain and Guillermo Del Toro (he directed this time), is my favorite movie of the year thus far. It's the stomach-churning tale of a brother in love and a sister rot with jealousy. Crimson Peak is not your traditional horror movie, in fact, it's not a horror movie at all. Del Toro classifies it as a "gothic romance", so the fear factor dosen't come from the shock-and-awe supernatural elements as much from the expert performances from the actors. Chastain is especially chilling. I believe, from the bottom of my heart, that she deserves a supporting actress Oscar nomination for her show-stealing portrayal of Lady Lucille Sharpe.Her Lucille was passionately monstrous with an utterly commanding presence with enough restrain to make her measured dialogue as unsettling as her gruesome actions.
As well as The Zookeeper's Wife (a movie about the holocaust), and Miss Sloane, a film about an ambitious lobbyist who decides to take on the NRA. She will also be playing Marilyn Monroe in the 2018 title Blonde. If she hasn't won an Oscar by then, which is unlikely when considering the subject matter of The Zookeeper's Wife, I think that Blonde will (finally) do it for her.
I do wish that she would do a true comedy at some point. In interviews, she's expressed interest in them, and according to her IMDB page she's rumored to be starring in Plus One (Amy Schumer is also attached). The plot is described as "a suddenly single woman finds she has a limited choice in girlfriends who can join her on the single's scene because all of her close friends are married now." It's unknown when this movie will come out and if she'll actually be in it, but it's evidently being produced by Will Ferrel, and if it's done in the style of a Judd Apatow comedy, sounds like it could indeed be funny (especially with Chastain at the helm).
She will be filming The Death and Life of John F. Donovan this spring. It's a satirical drama based on the real life events of actor John F. Donovan, whose career was shipwrecked when a gossip journalist (played by Chastain) exposes his correspondence with an 11 year old actor. The director described her character as the "evil villain", a role that Chastain has proven she can excel in.
It is my expressed opinion that Jessica Chastain is one of the greatest actresses not only of our time, but of all time. She is a chameleon who can convincingly "become" any role she's cast in. If Cate Blanchett is the new Meryl Streep, then Chastain is the new Blanchett (and not just because of the cheek bones).
Oscars- The Help (2012) (Nominee)
Zero Dark Thirty (2013) (Nominee)
Golden Globes- The Help (2012) (Nominee)
Zero Dark Thirty (2013) (Winner)
A Most Violent Year (2015) (Nominee)
Other awards include:
BAFTA (Lead/Supporting), ASFFH (Supporting/Lead), AWFJ (Supporting/Lead), BFCC (Ensemble/Lead), Critics Choice (MVP/Lead/Supporting), and about 100 others including "Breakout Star". Full list here: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm1567113/awards?ref_=nm_awd