6) Sally Ann in Stolen Lives (2008)
Admittedly, I only watched this movie because I'd heard that she was in it. And because the DVD slip said that there was a man called "John Hammm" (no jokes) in it. You probably can't expect great things from a movie which can't even spell it's headlining star right, but the film isn't too bad. It is just a very standard straight-to-DVD made-for-TV feel kind of movie. If I'm being honest, I can't really remember Jess all that much in it because her role is so small, but she was pretty cute.
5) Pam Stall in Texas Killing Fields (2011)
Here's another film which I only watched because Jess was in it. While the film isn't amazing - again, a very standard 'based on a true story' crime flick - she actually surprised me. I don't think we can really say that she has a 'type', but if she did, she's playing against type here. In a pretty small, largely undemanding role, she plays a tough cop, who ain't gonna sweet talk you (her first scene is basically her rattling off demands in the most no nonsense way), and then we also have a scene of her beating someone up. She's sure having fun when she can, but she's just not in the movie enough, sadly.
4) Mrs O'Brien in The Tree of Life (2011)
This film is probably my favourite one of hers, but it isn't my favourite performance. Mind you, that's not to say that she was bad - she was beyond perfect as the angelic, doting mother. Her character was basically an angel who was sent to Earth to teach her offspring the way of grace, and she does that by gliding through it glowing with kindness and love. Next to the awe-inspiring cinematography, her performance was what kept me watching the entire time. It was a masterpiece in the act of subtlety, which is something Jess is pretty skilled in, especially in the case of the next choice...
3) Rachel Singer in The Debt (2010)
Amidst the buzz for her performances in The Help, The Tree of Life and Take Shelter, her extraordinary work in The Debt went by mostly unnoticed. It's a shame, because her performance is absolutely breath-taking. Her character goes through several changes: from being a young Mossad agent with little experience, to going head to head with the Surgeon of Birkenau, to everything that happens after it. She fills it with complexity, heart and emotion. What I love the most is her final scene, where she has succumbed to the drink to try and override her guilt and regret. She shows so much pain on her face, even though she's given such a short time to show it.
2) Celia Foote in The Help (2011)
When I read The Help, Celia Foote was my favourite character. Because of that, I was a little scared that the actress playing her would screw it up and make her become a cartoonish blondie. Luckily, the actress playing her was Jessica Chastain, who did a perfect job. I once heard someone say that it was 'easy to do what she did in that movie'. It is quite the contrary. Celia is a character that could have become a cartoonish blondie, meaning her backstory wouldn't mean anything. Yet, Jess plays her realistically, and it is heart0t-breaking seeing what is actually going on with Celia. If I could, I'd give Celia a huge hug.
1) Samantha LaForche in Take Shelter (2011)
I'd probably give this performance the top spot just based on her reaction at the very end of the film. Yet, there's an entire film's worth of evidence to show why this is her best performance to date. Most of it has to do with Michael Shannon's performance, which is arguably the more dramatic part. Jess has the task of reacting to his meltdown, which she does perfectly. I can't really see too much more than that - you just have to see her performance to believe it.
What's next for her?
I still have to see Coriolanus (which is directed by and stars my favourite actor Ralph Fiennes) and Wilde Salome (release date pending), along with her early starring film Jolene. 2012 is set to be another big year for her, with a voicing gig in Madagascar 3; another Terrence Malick film; an interesting looking project called Tar; Mama, which has her donning a black wig; star-studded Prohibition-era film Lawless (formerly known as The Wettest County); and Kathryn Bigelow's Osama Bin Laden thriller Zero Dark Thirty, which she's filming in India at the moment. She's a busy wee lassie, isn't she? Thank goodness, though. I couldn't imagine movies without her.
Are you a fan of Jessica Chastain? What are your favourite performances of hers thus far?