2017 could be Jessica Chastain’s time to shine with Oscar

Folks, 2017 is shaping up to potentially be Jessica Chastain’s year. She stars in Aaron Sorkin upcoming directorial debut Molly’s Game. She also stars this week in The Zookeeper’s Wife, a drama that once seemed like it would have her heavily in competition for Best Actress. This still could be the year she contends for an Actress win at the Oscars, but it seems more likely for Molly’s Game than for The Zookeeper’s Wife. We’ll tackle how each could fare with the Academy in good time, but this is a sign that Chastain could have a year to remember. She certainly deserves for it to be, that much is hard to deny.

The film is a war drama as well as a biopic of sorts. It tells the tale of Antonina Zabinski (Chastain), who, along with her husband Dr. Jan Zabinski (Johan Heldenbergh), were the keepers of the Warsaw Zoo. When the Germans invaded during the Second World War, the Zabinskis managed to save hundreds of animals and people from the Nazis. The year is 1939. Poland is about to be under siege, and Antonina and Jan’s thriving zoo is put under the supervision of Nazi chief zoologist, Lutz Heck (Daniel Brühl). As the Warsaw Ghetto gets worse and worse, Antonina risks everything to save lives. Niki Caro directs a script from Angela Workman, who adapted the book by Diane Ackerman. Also in the cast we have Iddo Goldberg, Shira Haas, Michael McElhatton, Timothy Radford, and more. Harry Gregson-Williams handles the score, while the cinematography is done by underrated DP Andrij Parekh. Clearly, this is a showcase for Chastain, who is always on point. On the surface, this seemed like an obvious Oscar hopeful. As we all know though, being an Academy Award contender on paper is a hell of a lot different from being one in real life. That’s just the nature of the beast.

After having been delayed into 2017, this is likely not an awards player, but it might end up helping Chastain later on in the year when Molly’s Game comes out. The Zookeeper’s Wife has gotten mixed reviews, but heavy praise for her. Molly’s Game just showed off a bit of itself at Cinemacon, which won’t tell us anything just yet. Still, with Aaron Sorkin writing and making his directorial debut, she’ll potentially have the best material she’s ever had to work with. An actress of her skill level working with perhaps the best writer in the industry? Sign me up right now. Until proven otherwise, she seems like an early frontrunner for Best Actress, specifically for that role.

Here is how I would rank Chastain’s ten best performances so far:

10. The Martian
9. Jolene
8. The Help
7. Take Shelter
6. The Tree of Life
5. A Most Violent Year
4. Interstellar
3. The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Her
2. Miss Sloane
1. Zero Dark Thirty

Honorable Mentions: The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them, Lawless, and Texas Killing Fields

Basically, 2017 may very well be Chastain’s time to shine. We’ll have to see, but things are pretty promising right now. If not for The Zookeeper’s Wife, awards wise, then Molly’s Game potentially could be a slam dunk. A lot remains to be seen, but if you’re a betting man or a betting woman, Chastain is one of the safer plays right now. Perhaps that won’t be the case come the fall and winter, but as we enter spring, she’s sitting very pretty. It’s a matter of when, not if, with Chastain and Oscar, so keep a close eye on her this year…

Be sure to check out The Zookeeper’s Wife, in theaters on Friday, and stay tuned for more on Molly’s Game between now and it’s eventual 2017 release date!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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