Jessica Chastain on Marriage: ‘To Me It Is Not an Important Thing’

22 Jan 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

A Most Violent Year review: a movie that’s too good for the Oscars.

“I’m not quite sure of what I want in my life, and who knows if marriage is a part of it,” says the actress, 37, who has been dating Italian fashion executive Gian Luca Passi de Preposulo since 2012. “So to me, marriage is not an important thing.” Onscreen, the star – who appeared in four movies last year, including the sci-fi blockbuster Interstellar – is earning critical raves as a steely wife in the crime drama A Most Violent Year, opening in wide release this month. “That was a Chastain invention,” she says. “I had no idea people would be coming up to me and flicking a cigarette and quoting my line, ‘This was very disrespectful.’ It’s very cool.” Set in the 1980s, Jessica plays the daughter of a gangster who tries to persuade her clean cut husband into using criminal ways to protect their oil business. ‘Only in the past five years have people been telling me I’m attractive. Before then, I wasn’t getting parts because people kept telling me I wasn’t pretty enough,’ the actress told the Telegraph Magazine. ‘But it’s just so that I don’t have to go to sleep worrying about everything because I know that she’s in charge of the schedule. Ambitious immigrant Abel Morales (Issac) runs Standard Heating Oil, a fuel distribution company with lorries scattered across the boroughs delivering fuel. With its provocative title, its early 1980s setting and its gangland subplots, Chandor’s third film promises the faux-Scorsese moves that powered the ordinary American Hustle to hatfuls of nominations.

Their increasingly affluent lifestyle is threatened when their trucks start to be hijacked, which leads to mounting debts and fingers of suspicion pointed in the direction of their more nefarious partners. You’re going to be watching a studied, subtle slice of a grander story, one of many taking place over this narratively labyrinthine city in this year of violent crime. Spreading himself generously across two of this week’s releases – he can also be seen to advantage in Ex Machina – a sleek Oscar Isaac turns up as Abel Morales, the owner of a surging heating-oil supply business.

Don’t expect Goodfellas style grandstanding, Chandor’s film is a quiet exercise in sparingly depicting what you need to know, and it’s a technique that ensures you’re gripped without ever really realising it. His wife, played by Jessica Chastain with flashing talons and daytime-soap cleavage, is a little perturbed by his unwillingness to set morality aside.

Exacerbating the harshness, and subverting the idea that this is a man’s world, is a superb performance from Jessica Chastain, stepping out from behind Oscar Issac with an against type role of marital dominance and moments of Chastain chastising that shake the film from its genteel pacing. There is a roadkill sequence during which she steps to the forefront and delivers on the threat that “you’re not going to like what will happen when I get involved” by dealing with her husband’s inadequacies. She is played brilliantly, like a sultry cobra, lulling the audience into a false sense of security, kidding you she’s a gangster’s moll or mother cliché, and then striking out. As he seeks to close on a property in Brooklyn, trucks continue to get hijacked, salesmen are beaten up and an ambitious district attorney (David Oyelowo), presaging a change in the city’s direction, prepares indictments for false declaration of income. There are moments when the gears turn a little faster like a wonderful rat-a-tat-tat car chase sequence, and an effective low key rail yard foot pursuit, both of which recall the likes of The French Connection in style and execution.

Their sprawling house in Westchester County is a paradoxical masterpiece of uncomfortable luxury: a quasi-Japanese mansion that will never seem properly lived in. Though the film gives in to extreme violence in its closing moments, it works hard (and succeeds) at making the day-to- day minutiae of economic survival seem exciting. Shot in such subterranean depths of winter that the characters seem constantly in danger of freezing into moral and literal stasis, the picture confirms that, rather than being sold in job lots, souls tend to be salami-sliced into gradual extinction.

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