Jessica Chastain

REVIEW: Molly’s Game (2017)

The true story of Molly Bloom (Jessica Chastain), a self-made woman who ran the most exclusive high-stakes poker games in America, attended by film stars, musicians, businessmen, and unbeknownst to her, the mob, and the subsequent court case when she becomes an FBI target.

Molly’s Game is a fast-paced film, with rapid quick-cut editing and a voiceover from Bloom throughout. This voiceover adds details such as she was thinking and, when it comes to the poker games, explains some of the slang terms for hands and cards. While the film does offer these moments of explanation, there’s a lot to take in and it might have been easier to follow, and perhaps that bit more enjoyable, if you have more of an understanding of poker. It’s still an engaging film though, there’s just a lot of information being giving to you almost constantly through the voiceover.

The script is razor sharp, which is unsurprising really as it’s penned by Aaron Sorkin (writer of The West Wing, The Social Network and many other shows and films). The dialogue is funny and lively, and the scenes jump between the present and Bloom’s court room battle, and her rise and fall in the world of poker.

Jessica Chastain gives another stellar performance here. She’s commands every scene she’s in and outshines just about any other actor she’s on screen with. Idris Elba plays Charlie Jaffey, Bloom’s lawyer, and their verbal sparring matches as they slowly begin to understand one another are electric.

Molly’s Game is an entertaining film, albeit perhaps a bit overlong, with great performances, some laughs and high-drama. 4/5.

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REVIEW: Miss Sloane (2016)

Elizabeth Sloane (Jessica Chastain) is the most sought after lobbyist in Washington D.C. But when she turns down the job of working against a gun control bill and instead joins Rodolfo Schmidt’s (Mark Strong) firm which is working to ensure the bill passes, she finds herself against her most powerful opponent.

Miss Sloane is a gripping political thriller. While it does feature the hot topic of gun control and putting restrictions on who can go and buy a gun, the film uses that to show the tactics lobbyists use to get congressmen onside, and how politics can be corrupted. It’s a fascinating look behind the curtain of American politics and while this story is fiction, it is an interesting look at how bills can succeed or fail.

Elizabeth Sloane is amazing. She’s one of those characters who isn’t a nice person at all and will happily use people to get the result she wants but there’s something about her that pulls you in. She is a master tactician and a thing the film does really well is it not only has multiple characters say how smart and formidable she is, but actually shows you how smart and formidable she is. Jessica Chastain knocks it out of the park in this role, showing there are some very hidden layers to Elizabeth and she has no problem with who she is.

While Chastain stills the show, the whole cast is truly brilliant. Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Sam Waterston, Alison Pill and John Lithgow all deserve a mention as they all give great performances.

The music and set design make everything about the world these politicians work in look clean and perfect but it really helps hide the truth that there is shady business going on in politics every day. All the costumes are great, with suits and office attire adding another facet to each character.

Miss Sloane is a brilliant film that will have you rooting for the underdog. Jessica Chastain is amazing in the role and it’s a film I can’t stop thinking about. 5/5.

REVIEW: The Zookeeper’s Wife (2017)

The true story of Antonina (Jessica Chastain) and Jan Zabinski (Johan Heldenbergh), keepers of the Warsaw Zoo, who helped saved hundreds of Jews during the German invasion.

The Zookeeper’s Wife is a beautiful looking film. So bright when the zoo is open and thriving, it’s almost idyllic before the Nazi’s invade, Antonina cuddles lion cubs and her son Ryszard (Timothy Radford and Val Maloku) has a pet skunk. Living and working in a zoo almost seems utopian until it’s suddenly and violently attacked. The juxtaposition of the innocence of animals to the cruelty of people can be a little heavy handed at times but there are certain moments of brilliance, like when tigers and lions walk down the bombed streets of Warsaw.

There’s a throbbing sense of foreboding once Antonina and Jan decide to try and help the Jewish people who had been rounded up into a ghetto. Every person is a potential threat from the cook, to neighbours and of course the German soldiers who are always on patrol. They have a plan and a system in place but there’s always the threat of discovering hanging over their heads like a guillotine.

The Nazi occupation is personified by German zoologist Lutz Heck (Daniel Brühl) who is forever a lurking and watching the Zabinski’s. It begins as a mutual love of animals but his interest soon turns to Antonina causing an extra thread of tension to grow not only between the two of them but also between Antonina and Jan.

The themes of love, friendship and loyalty in the face of hatred, which are so often seen in films set in this time period, are no less affecting. This is down to great writing and brilliant performances from all involved. The Zookeeper’s Wife is sometimes a brutal and upsetting experience but there is still hope in the way Antonina and Jan resist the Nazi occupation and their ideologies. 4/5.

REVIEW: Crimson Peak (2015)

crimson-peak-poster-elenasquareeyesAspiring author Edith Cushing (Mia Wasikowska) is enchanted by the mysterious Thomas Sharpe (Tom Hiddleston). Leaving everything she knows behind including her childhood friend Dr. Alan McMichael (Charlie Hunnam) Edith moves to the old mansion where Thomas lives with his sister Lucille (Jessica Chastain). The house holds many secrets and ghosts, and slowly Edith begins to realise there’s something very wrong about the place.

Crimson Peak is beautiful. It’s the epitome of gothic romance, a genre which suits director Guillermo del Toro perfectly. The set design and the costumes add so much to the atmosphere of the film and as the film goes along the house begins to feel like it’s alive.

The story of Crimson Peak is pretty simple really but it’s the performances and chemistry between the characters that sucks you in. Also it isn’t really a horror film even though it has ghosts and some gruesome moments – like Edith said herself at one point, it’s not a ghost story but a story that has ghosts in it. The ghosts themselves are still very creepy and unsettling and they help put the audience and Edith on edge as you both try and figure out what they are trying to show her.

Besides from the gorgeous set design, the memorable thing about Crimson Peak is the performances. Wasikowska is the damsel in distress but she’s still smart and resourceful and her ability to see ghosts, while slightly terrifying, is what helps her in the end. Hiddleston is great as the charming but sensitive mystery man, but it is Chastain as Lucille who is distant but cunning that really steals the show. She gives an unsettling performance and she commands the attention of both the viewer and Thomas and Edith whenever she’s in the room.

Some may find Crimson Peak boring as it is not really the horror film it has been marketed as, it has very few jump-scares, in fact it is more eerie and atmospheric than frightening. If you can look past the marketing campaign you will find a film that is gorgeous yet deadly, full of amazing performances and an unsettling amount of tension.

Crimson Peak is beautifully dark and creepy and while it may not have many surprises, it’s still captivating. 4/5.

REVIEW: The Martian (2015)

the martian elenasquareeyesDuring a manned mission to Mars a fierce storm hits and the crew must evacuate. In the chaos Astronaut Mark Watney (Matt Damon) is hit by debris and presumed dead by his crew. Little do they know, Watney survived but now he has to find a way to live on Mars and contact NASA to let them know he’s still alive.

Directed by Ridley Scott and with a screenplay by Drew Goddard The Martian is ridiculously fun. It blends the visuals of Gravity, with the drama of Apollo 13 and the science of Interstellar without it getting bogged down or boring. The way in which the film juggles multiple characters is to be commended. Not only does it have Watney “science-ing the shit” out of his situation all alone on Mars but it has his crew in orbit on a space station and the people of NASA back on Earth struggling to figure out a way to bring him home.

Each character gets their moment to shine and the way characters are introduced often gives a quick insight into what sort of person to shine, my favourite character introduction was Rich Purnell (Donald Glover) and all his scenes were great, especially as you slowly see what he’s up to before he meets everyone else. (more…)

C is for Jessica Chastain

jessica-chastain-at-interstellar-premiere-in-new-york_15I have to thanks my friend Bex for showing me how great and talented Jessica Chastain is. The first film I saw her in was The Help (2011) and having read the book, she made the perfect Celia – sweet and naïve yet also loyal and strong.

Jessica Chastain is one of those people that you think has been around forever making films but when you look at her IMDb page you realise she’s only been on the big screen less than ten years.

She was great in Zero Dark Thirty (2012) and in Interstellar (2014) – though both films may have had their issues, whether politically or narratively there’s no denying that Jessica Chastain was brilliant in both.

There’s lots of films she’s starred in that I’ve not gotten around to seeing but really want to, A Most Violent Year being the most recent. Then there’s two films she’s starring in this year that I’m super looking forward to – The Martian and Crimson Peak. I have the book The Martian and I’m keen to read it but the reason I bought it was because the cast list for the film adaptation is amazing! Also Crimson Peak looks creepy and gothic and is directed by Guillermo del Toro who I love. I just think Jessica Chastain is making some really interesting acting choices right now and I’m looking forward to seeing where she goes next.

The thing that really made me take notice of Jessica Chastain as a person rather than as an actor was her acceptance speech at the Critics’ Choice Awards this year. She was accepting the MVP Award and used her moment on stage to call for more diversity in the film industry. It was a great speech and I loved how in a later interview she said that “if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem” and I think that’s a sentiment that many people in Hollywood need to get behind as many (white) people in the industry say “oh it’s terrible that no people of colour were nominated in the acting categories at the Oscars this year” but don’t actively try and make a difference.