Jessica Chastain is back on the Oscar radar for the third time in five years thanks to her work as the title character in the new political thriller “Miss Sloane.” Helmed by Oscar-nominated director John Madden (“Shakespeare in Love”), “Miss Sloane” tells the story of a ruthless but effective political lobbyist (Chastain) who faces her most formidable challenge to date when she takes on the powerful gun lobby in the heart of the nation’s capital.
Sloane is a gung-ho, work-obsessed woman similar to the character that Chastain played in 2012’s “Zero Dark Thirty,” which earned her Best Actress nominations at the Oscars, Golden Globes and Critics’ Choice Awards. And this kind of role could give Chastain an advantage as Oscar voters have a history of awarding actresses playing strong-willed, independent characters not afraid to get their hands dirty to reach their objective: Faye Dunaway (“Network,” 1976), Sally Field (“Norma Rae,” 1979), Julia Roberts (“Erin Brockovich,” 2000) and Meryl Streep (“The Iron Lady,” 2011).
Critics are effusive in their praise of Chastain’s performance. Todd McCarthy (Hollywood Reporter) proclaims, “Chastain crafts a tour de force portrait of a character whose relentless professional dedication and apartness from others makes her something of a sister to [her] similarly obsessed character in ‘Zero Dark Thirty’; certainly these two roles represent her signature screen appearances to date.” Jason Guerrasio (Business Insider) writes, “Giving one of the best performances of the year and her career, Chastain plays Sloane less as a trailblazer for a good cause and more as an unapologetic addict of winning at any cost.”
Chastain benefits from the fact that she is still in a honeymoon period with awards groups. She received her first Oscar nomination for her supporting role in 2011’s “The Help,” which also earned her bids at the Golden Globe, Critics’ Choice, and Screen Actors Guild Awards. Later she received nominations for her supporting role in 2014’s “A Most Violent Year” at the Golden Globes, Independent Spirit Awards, and the Critics’ Choice Awards; she even won an honorary MVP Award for her appearances in multiple films that year. Having that kind of industry respect could allow her to break into this year’s highly competitive Best Actress race. And history has shown that this is the kind of role that could win.
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