Both had three critically acclaimed films released this past year. Films that made us stand and cheer. Each performance stood out – both stocks rising, no doubt. Each had a blockbuster hit – one got to work with Pitt. The camera loves them far and close – I better keep this moving before I go all verbose.
Jessica Chastain and Tom Hiddleston are the real deal. Memorize their names before your next social gathering. Be it a kegger down by the river or a swanky Strip and Go Naked, foie gras on Melba toast elbow rub at Nigel’s cozy but smart Village apartment.
Chastain may be a California girl, but her polish came at Julliard, and now’s she’s all growed up and rocking the big screen.
Early in the year she showed up in Terrence Malik’s intensely thought-provoking existentialist drama The Tree of Life. Her angelic presence as the nurturing mother to three sons and the wife to Brad Pitt’s tormented and explosive father was a thing of exquisite beauty. It’s a gorgeous film, elevated by Chastain’s grace and alabaster purity.
In The Help, Chastain plays a misunderstood “floozy” outcast with a heart of gold; and, in a film with more than a couple of memorable performances, almost steals the show. It is a role that, if in the wrong hands, would have upset the balance of the film’s tone. It’s going to be very interesting to see which actresses will be singled out from this picture with Oscar nominations.
For good measure, she played a very convincing Israeli special agent in The Debt, proving she can handle almost any genre.
British born Hiddleston began his year by running away with Thor’s thunder, playing the title character’s brother, ‘Loki.’ For a young actor, having Anthony Hopkins play your father is like showing up at a Toyota dealership and being handed the keys to a Mercedes E class. Smooth sailing. Hiddleston more than held his own, and even managed to elevate the performance of neophyte Chris Hemsworth. On deck for ‘Loki’ is the highly anticipated Joss Whedon superhero megapack, The Avengers, and then Thor 2.
Next up, Hiddleston embodied the suave persona of none other than F. Scott Fitzgerald in Woody Allen’s sublime Midnight in Paris. For Allen’s concept of a writer’s fantasy world inhabited by literary greats to work, the actors had to be up to the task. While Corey Stoll stands out most as Ernest Hemingway, Hiddleston is a totally believable Fitzgerald, filling the screen with understated intellect and charm. Makes one almost wish he were playing ‘Jay Gatsby’ in Baz Luhrmann’s work in progress.
Finally, in Steven Spielberg’s War Horse, Hiddleston plays earnest British battlefront bound ‘Captain Nicholls.’ It’s a minor role with a major moment of foreshadowing requiring just the right actor’s touch to resonate. When ‘Captain Nicholls’ looks at young ‘Albert’ and promises to return his horse safely, we need to believe not only his intentions but his forecast. In this simple moment it became clear to me that this actor has everything it takes to be a major star.
The camera does not lie. And neither do I. Sure as pie these two actors will soar sky high.