On the occasion of the release of “Miss Sloane” by John Madden, a portrait of Jessica Chastain, leading actress of often exciting films of the current decade. Or how a frail and diaphanous young woman has imposed herself as a symbol of power and empowerment.
The popular press calls her mysterious because she is discreet about her private life. She can change her face in a second. Some quibble about his age (a priori 39 years old). In a crowd, in the street, no one notices her, and she does nothing for it. She is thin, sometimes even skinny. At the tip of his chin, a small dimple. She is a vegetarian, she is of her time. Her hair is mostly red, but a red that is never quite the same. Jessica Chastain (real name Jessica M. Howard – Chastain being her mother’s maiden name) has become an international star in a few films and a little over a decade. What’s different?
The American actress very quickly imposed a completely singular female character: she often interprets serious, reasonable characters, strong women. She often has power (she is often an executive, a CIA agent or commands the team of a spaceship), knowledge (scientific as in Interstellar). His sexuality? Not very present in her roles, or very discreetly. Jessica Chastain, after a full theatrical career, came to the cinema (unless it was he who came to her) when she was already thirty years old. This is perhaps the secret: despite her willingly diaphanous complexion, which gives a fragility to her somewhat rough characters, she did not have to stick with the roles of young evaporated firsts.
2011: Take Shelter by Jeff Nichols:
After a few appearances in series like Emergency room, Chastain is first noticed in Jeff Nichols’ second film. Alongside Michael Shannon and her face carved like an Easter Island statue, she embodies reason, the mother of a family who is afraid of the paranoid madness of her man who has decided to build an over-equipped shelter deep in his garden. The little Jessica Chastain touch is the color of her hair: redheads, in the cinema, there aren’t that many. Julianne Moore is naturally whimsical, a bit scary. At Chastain, red is the touch, the grain of madness of the deceptively wise woman.
2011: The Tree of Life by Terrence Malick:
Alongside Brad Pitt, Jessica Chastain participates in the most beautiful part of The Tree of Life : the one who describes a severe father, a loving mother who tries to counterbalance her husband’s authoritarianism by giving confidence to her children, before the tragedy… She is full of tenderness, she is magnificent. One of his finest roles.
2012: Zero Dark Thirty by Kathryn Bigelow:
Change of role: Jessica Chastain is Maya, an American agent. She is responsible for making alleged members of Al-Qaeda “talk” (in particular a character played by Reda Kateb), in order to find the trail of Osama bin Laden and prepare for his elimination (the film is obviously inspired by facts real). She succeeds. At a high price: that of the use of torture (very harsh scenes which caused controversy when the film was released). But Maya is a single woman, perhaps not as insensitive as one might think at first glance (which I don’t justify). She does her job. With his Ray-ban aviator glasses, Chastain in any case virilizes his image.
2014 : Interstellar by Christopher Nolan:
Another great role. Although her role is, in screen time, quite short (we discover her for the first time after 80 minutes of film), Jessica Chastain plays a leading role in the story. It’s hard to sum it up here (it’s very complex), but Murphy (known as “Murph”) is the daughter of Cooper (Matthew McConaughey), an astronaut who left to find a planet where humanity, threatened with extinction by the degradation of the Earth’s climate, can take refuge and flourish. Murph is often visited by a ghost, who leaves him mysterious messages. And then she grows up. Becomes a famous scientist. His father does not return. She sees it as a betrayal. But the ghost returns. Murph will soon save the world. Chastain plays resentment, intelligence, cunning too. She is very beautiful and attractive, maybe for the first time. Look at this photogram:
2014 : A Most Violent Year by JC Chandor:
Here she is suddenly blonde! Still a role of mother and wife, far from being an erased woman… Stronger than ever, she tries against all odds to support her husband (Oscar Isaac), for whom she is the financial adviser, an entrepreneur overwhelmed by his pranks in the law (even if he was pushed a little into illegality). Her fairness gives her a vulgar, popular side, which takes her out of her previous roles. Change hair color, change personality…
2015 : Alone on Mars (The Martian) by Ridley Scott: Melissa Lewis
Back to a red, moreover rather dark. Jessica Chastain now leads a team of American astronauts who were forced to abandon one of their own (Matt Damon) on Mars, convinced that he was dead. He will survive. At NASA, everyone is happy. Only Commander Melissa Lewis (our favorite Jessica) feels guilty for abandoning him. Driven by her sense of honour, she sets off to look for him. Upright, indomitable, rigorous and human, Chastain, after Interstellarshines once again in a science fiction film.
To be continued…