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Sandie Angulo Chen

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Sandie Angulo Chen is a movie critic, WAFCA member, mother to three budding cinephiles, and a paid expert on what movies will give kids nightmares.

Jessica Chastain Vs. Jennifer Lawrence

Jessica Chastain and Jennifer Lawrence are both ridiculously talented, unbelievably gorgeous and critically acclaimed. And given their award credentials in such a short time, they’re both obviously Oscar-bound actresses (likely this year for one, and soon enough, we predict, for the other).

In a matter of just a couple of years, these two leading ladies seemed to jump from relative obscurity to the Academy’s must-watch list, but who’s got the edge?  See how Chastain and Lawrence compare in our completely unscientific head-to-head with both amazing actresses.

Humble Beginnings

Jessica Chastain: She was born March 24, 1977 in Sonoma, California. The daughter of a vegan chef and a firefighter, Chastain got into acting in college and was later accepted into Juilliard’s prestigious Drama School, where her classmates included “Ugly Betty”‘s Michael Urie.

Jennifer Lawrence: Born Aug. 15, 1990, Lawrence was raised in Louisville, Kentucky to parents who ran a children’s camp and a concrete construction firm. Interested in acting even as a little girl who performed in local theater, Lawrence graduated from high school two years early to pursue acting full time as a teen.

Advantage: Lawrence. Actresses from California are not exactly in short supply, but serious thespians from Kentucky are worth noting.

Breakout Role

Jessica Chastain: Although she had appeared in three films (most notably “The Debt” as the younger version of Helen Mirren) from 2008-2010, it was her trifecta of 2011 roles in “The Help,” “Tree of Life,” and “Take Shelter” that made audiences and critics take notice of the head-turning redhead with the serious acting skills.

Jennifer Lawrence: “Winter’s Bone” (2010) wasn’t Jennifer Lawrence’s debut feature film, but it might as well have been for how definitively it transformed her into an indie darling with the ability to carry an entire story on her young but fierce shoulders.  

Advantage: Chastain. As amazed as we were by Lawrence’s Oscar-nominated performance in “Winter’s Bone,” we’ve got to give this one to Chastain for pulling off not one but three standout parts in one year.

Award Cred

Jessica Chastain: The 35-year-old actress has scored everything from critics’ association awards to two Academy Award noms (a Best Supporting for “The Help” and this year’s Best Actress for “Zero Dark Thirty”) and her recently earned Golden Globe.

Jennifer Lawrence: At 20, she became the second-youngest woman (now third, with 9-year-old Quvenzhane Wallis’ nod for “Beasts of the Southern Wild”) ever nominated for a Best Actress Oscar. Now 22, she’s been nominated again. Add in her Golden Globe for “Silver Linings Playbook,” her MTV Movie Award, and she’s the winningest actress of her age.

Advantage: Tie. Both actresses have a Globe win and two Academy Award nominations (and dozens of critics’ circle awards) to their name. Lawrence edges Chastain out for being nominated twice at such a young age, plus for winning that golden popcorn for “The Hunger Games.” But, Chastain looks like a lock for their head-to-head at this year’s Oscars.

Open Range:

Jessica Chastain: Despite her few years in feature films, the Juilliard-trained actress has mastered drama (“Zero Dark Thirty”), horror (“Mama”), comedy (“The Help”), Shakespeare (“Coriolanus”) and period action flicks (“Lawless”)… oh, and there’s the completely indefinable “Tree of Life.” Off screen, she’s also tackled the Great White Way in the Broadway production of “The Heiress,” opposite Cousin Matthew (Dan Stevens).

Jennifer Lawrence: She’s only made 11 features, but they span an equally as impressive range of genres as Chastain’s, from horror (“House at the End of the Street”) and indie drama (“Winter’s Bone”), to family dramedy (“The Beaver”) and quirky comedy (“Silver Linings Playbook); oh and two big-budget franchises (“The Hunger Games” and “X-Men: First Class”).

Advantage: Chastain, but only by a teensy bit, because she is more experienced and has impressed us on both stage and screen.

Media Personality

Jessica Chastain: A lifelong vegan (her mother is a vegan chef), Chastain is a serious advocate of whole foods, clean living and animal welfare. She is so healthy she was disgusted with having to gain 15 lbs. for her curvy character in “The Help” (a feat she called “a form of torture”). She’s even honest about her difficult start in the industry, as she said in her Globes’ acceptance speech: “I’ve auditioned and struggled and fought and been on the sidelines for years, and to be here now in this moment, it’s a beautiful feeling.”

Jennifer Lawrence: Media training, what media training? Lawrence is not known for censoring herself and will often say random hilarious things like “I would be Wes Bentley’s beard” (on who else she’d play in the “Hunger Games”); “I can’t eat this” (her disappointment that the MTV trophy isn’t edible); “Peeniss” (Katniss and Peeta’s “couple” nickname); “I ate French fries and laid in bed until three” (her downtime); and “You should start exercising your vagina” (to – who else? – Chelsea Handler).

Advantage: Lawrence. She’s funny, down-to-earth, and doesn’t take herself too seriously, which is a breath of fresh air in the notoriously facile world of show business.

Killer Appeal

Jessica Chastain: In “Zero Dark Thirty,” Chastain’s singular-minded character Maya proved she could track you down in the remotest part of the world and have you offed by a gang of Navy SEALs.

Jennifer Lawrence: In “Winter’s Bone,” “X-Men: First Class,” and “The Hunger Games,” Lawrence proved as Ree, Mystique and then Katniss that she could absolutely kick your ass (with or without her weapon of choice), and she doesn’t need anyone else to do it for her.

Advantage: Lawrence. Hello, she’s the Girl on Fire!

And the winner is:

Lawrence. We want this to be a tie, because both actresses are so, so good – and come Oscar night, we’re nearly 100-percent sure Chastain will emerge victorious. But because Lawrence is fearless and fantastic – and also a little bit scary – the odds are ever in her favor.


Categories: Features

Tags: Jennifer Lawrence, Jessica chastain, The Silver Linings Playbook

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