I’m obviously in no position to talk as I won’t see Zero Dark Thirty until next Saturday, but the reason Awards Daily‘s Sasha Stone has declared that Jessica Chastain “gives far and away the best performance of the year by any actress, at least here in the US” — i.e., above and beyond Silver Linings Playbook frontrunner Jennifer Lawrence — is because her Maya character satisfies the Stone ideal of female characters exuding tough, stand-alone strength.
Chastain rules, in other words, because director Kathryn Bigelow and writer-producer Mark Boal “designed the whole movie around her character, not framing her behind, depending on, flirting with any man but instead, holding her own.”
Whereas Lawrence’s Tiffany doesn’t cut it by Stone’s requirements because, as I explained on 9.27, Stone feels she’s “basically a male fuck fantasy, and the story itself is too male-centric because Tiffany is basically used by director-writer David O. Russell to support and complete Bradley Cooper‘s Pat Solitano character by (a) shaking him out of his ‘I need to get back with my wife’ obsession and (b) falling in love with him and gradually inspiring reciprocity.
“In short, the Silver Linings milieu is too male, too blue-collar, too football-fanatic and not positive enough in terms of pushing strong, independent-minded, take-charge, stand-their-own-ground female characters. Tiffany, in short, is too emotionally vulnerable and not Katniss Everdeen enough.
“Lawrence knocks it out of the park in the Silver Linings Playbook, ” Stone wrote on 9.26, “but] if she weren’t such a rising star she would be in the supporting category for her work here, as her function in the film is mainly to support Bradley Cooper’s character arc.
“What makes this an award-worthy performance is that Lawrence elevates it beyond what’s written on the page. She makes it deeper, richer, more compelling than it otherwise would be — it’s a male fantasy — yet Lawrence finds the truth in who the character is and that makes the difference.”
Shorter Stone: “SLP director-writer David O. Russell is too much of a sexist alpha male to give us the kind of strong female character we all want to see and need more of, but Kathryn Bigelow gets it like only a woman could, and she brings it home.”