If there have been two constants of late, they have been Jessica Chastain movies and rain. So, imagine my state of mind when I went to see ANOTHER Jessica Chastain release (I’ve seen at least three in the last month!) during ANOTHER downpour. And guess what the movie revolves around: A storm!
Nevertheless, “Take Shelter” is an extremely compelling and creepy apocalyptic-themed indie. It is definitely worth a viewing, even though I’ll be surprised if anyone actually checks it out. I’m not dissing the movie, by any means by saying that. The fault lies in the ridiculous cost of movie-going. Who can seriously blame people for mainly choosing visually stimulating superscope extravaganzas that don’t translate well to smaller screens? That said, “The Help” did beat the shit out of “Cowboys & Aliens”, which was, definitely, a much deserved anomaly. And guess who was one of the stars of “The Help”? Why that would be (drum roll)…Jessica Chastain!
The acting in “Take Shelter” is off-the-charts great, so we must also mention Chastain’s co-star, Michael Shannon (“Boardwalk Empire”). In his little speech before the screening, director/writer Jeff Nichols said that Philip Seymour Hoffman told him that stage-mainstay Shannon “is one of the finest actors of his generation.” Nichols himself should be lauded for managing to elevate material that could have been eye-rolling trite and, instead, create a “Shining”/Hitchcock-type piece that beautifully oozes horror, frustration and dread.
I was not bored.
In person, Chastain resembles a very fine-featured Julia Roberts, what with the coloring and teeth. She’s absolutely gorgeous, yet, on-screen, she manages to completely change her appearance; a hat trick Julia has never been able to successfully accomplish. Chastain is definitely a MOVIE STAR, yet she has the acting chops (Julliard!) to completely disappear into her characters. Few MOVIE STARS can do this because their looks and natural personality/charisma get in the way. Also, eventually, so do their egos. It’s always gratifying to the moviegoer when Tom Cruise stops being TOM CRUISE and, instead, takes on an off-beat character. It’s only then that we’re reminded what a kick-ass actor he is behind that kilowatt smile.
The location for the after party was The Vault at Pfaff's. Good choice: A focal point of the movie was a storm shelter and The Vault would excel at being one. Down a set of stairs was a welcoming, homey space that has a history of liquoring up such notables as Walt Whitman and Adah Isaacs Menken. The comely waitresses are laced up in bustier dresses, courtesy of Christian Siriano, of “Project Runway” fame.
It was here that I was able to speak to Chastain. One of the photographers witnessed her PR flack refusing to allow the “Post’s” reporter speak to her, but when I noticed Chastain cheerfully chatting with another reporter, I decided it just must have been some issue with the “Post”. So, I patiently lurked nearby until they finished. When I approached, she couldn’t have been sweeter.
“Of course! Anything!” She replied to my request for a moment of her time, flashing that big toothy Juila-esque smile.
“I’ve been seeing all the Jessica Chastain movies this summer…”
She laughed, knowingly.
“…and, what I’m struck by is that, though you are, obviously, a movie STAR, you seem to be conducting you career more as a character actor, even when playing lead roles. Except for Jeff Bridges, it is usually foreigners who forge careers like that.”
“For an actor, that road takes a lot of patience, guts and a massive range of acting chops.”
“Is there anyone’s career that you respect, that you hope to emulate?”
“Isabelle Huppert! She’s a French actress.”
“I know.” I laughed.
“Because she’s so brave! Everything she does is different!” I respect that so much!”
“From what I’ve seen, you’re doing yourself proud, then. If I was not aware that it was you in the millions of movies I’ve seen you in lately, I would never know.”
She thanked me profusely. I thanked her profusely. It was a beautiful moment.
And then I had to go home, feet sloshing in puddles, umbrella overturning in the wind.
Rain and Jessica Chastain.
The latter is a far more pleasant constant.