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Oscar Isaac Jessica Chastain Getty.jpg

Oscar Isaac Always Understands the Assignment

By Kayleigh Donaldson | Celebrity | September 8, 2021 |

By Kayleigh Donaldson | Celebrity | September 8, 2021 |

Oscar Isaac Jessica Chastain Getty.jpg

Over the weekend, the internet lost its dang mind over Oscar Isaac. This is a relatively common occurrence, of course. We were all there for the Finn/Poe shipping delights, the Addams Family remake dream-casting tweets, and the prime thirst trap that is space daddy Leto Atreides in the upcoming adaptation of Dune. Few actors working in mainstream Hollywood cinema today inspire such consistent and near-universal online giddiness. This time around, however, Isaac set the bar even higher. While attending the Venice Film Festival, where he’s promoting three projects, Isaac took to the red carpet with Jessica Chastain. The pair are long-time friends and co-stars in the HBO series Scenes from a Marriage, adapted from the Ingmar Bergman classic. While posing together for the cameras, Isaac got in a few good smolders and gently kissed Chastain’s arm. The clip of this moment quickly went wildly viral. Lions were dripping. Faces were fanned. Never before have people been so jealous of an arm.

The video inspired a flurry of emotions thanks to the sheer undeniable chemistry that the pair had. You saw the usual suspects claiming that this was unfair to their respective spouses and the cynical backlash pointing out that these are actors doing a job to promote a show. Mostly, however, we all just seemed to admire the work on display, and it is work. Isaac and Chastain are plugging a project that will rise and fall based on their chemistry, and it’s evident to anyone who’s even half paying attention that the sparks fly fiercely between them. It was a sly move from Isaac, one that’s paid off handsomely. I know I’m more excited for Scenes from a Marriage now. We wanted glamor, we wanted sex, we wanted some classic celebrity grandeur. And boy, we got it.

Much has been written about how Hollywood cinema has become increasingly disinterested in sex. Modern blockbusters care little for inspiring tangible chemistry between romantic leads. The MPAA has always rated sexual content more aggressively than violence. Major films still feel the need to shoehorn in some kind of romantic subplot even if the actors in question have zero heat (hello, Jungle Cruise and all of Tom Cruise’s output of the past 15 years.) Every couple of months or so, we get some tedious viral tweet about how sex scenes are never necessary in film, regardless of the context. There is a true famine of eroticism in modern American cinema and we, the audience, are starving. That’s partly why that Isaac-Chastain video elicited such a fervent response. Finally, some real passion! That was some Tony Leung-level fire, and all from the simplest of moves. It was a much-needed reminder of what we’ve been missing.

Of course, Oscar Isaac could have red-hot chemistry with a piece of garden furniture. He’s one of the few stars of his level in Hollywood who carries that force with him from project to project. To put it bluntly, his characters f**k. All of them. Poe Dameron. Leto Atreides. Llewyn Davis. The creepy tech guy in Ex Machina. His animated version of Gomez Addams. Every single one of them. He can turn that stare into one of pure fire in a mere heartbeat. There’s always been a kind of classic Hollywood leading man quality to Isaac, both on and off the screen. Plenty of photoshoots have slicked his hair back and given him a cigarette to take full advantage of his Clark Gable-esque demeanor. His red carpet looks often rely on that brand of timeless suave style that looks as good in 2021 as it would have in 1951. Isaac is also clearly self-aware enough to know how potent his own appeal is. He may chafe at the Internet Boyfriend label but he knows how to work a room, a red carpet, an intergalactic confrontation, and so much more.

A lot of leading men have tried in recent years to squeeze themselves into familiar masculine molds. Chris Pratt is eager to be the 21st century Harrison Ford yet lacks that actor’s roughish appeal, his innate ability to be silky smooth in his charm with a goofy streak and real abrasiveness. Dwayne Johnson is trying to find the middle ground between ’80s tough guys and the jokesters of the Frat Pack but his unwillingness to be truly vulnerable and total lack of chemistry with practically all of his female co-stars hinder him in those efforts to be a universally endearing hero. And that doesn’t even cover the endless assembly line of interchangeable white dudes who are forced into the spotlight for a couple of films then replaced with a lookalike once the public shows its disinterest. So, here we have a Guatemalan-Cuban-American guy who used to be in a ska-punk band and seemingly comes out of nowhere to be a major star. He steals scenes, he’s got the range, and he has no problem veering between tiny character dramas and high-cost effects-heavy franchise tentpoles. He can be a devilish rogue who cracks a joke in the face of death in one film then slide naturally into hipster arrogance in the next. All that and he oozes the kind of effortless sexuality that we’ve been in such sore supply of lately. Surely the industry has bent over backward to find the perfect projects for this talent?

Eh, alas, no. Often, he’s wasted in work that seems incapable of utilizing his brand of allure. The Star Wars sequels saw Poe Dameron stumble in the final film and his impeccable chemistry with John Boyega was quickly tossed aside with a strong dose of No Homo. A rare chance to show off his sentimental side in Life Itself was blown by an overwrought and condescending script. Still, he makes an impact wherever he goes, which in and of itself feels like an increasingly rare quality for actors of his caliber. It’s what makes him such a malleable presence across genres, as ideal for Oscar bait (heh) as the next Marvel miniseries.

At the very least, we can look forward to more of Isaac getting the job done on and off the screen. The acting never stops and we love it. The photoshoot tie-ins to his upcoming projects will undoubtedly send us all into a frenzy. Hey, we’re not mad.

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Kayleigh is a features writer and editor for Pajiba. You can follow her on Twitter or listen to her podcast, The Hollywood Read.

Header Image Source: Marilla Sicilia // Archivio Marilla Sicilia // Mondadori Portfolio via Getty Images