With a few months left in 2011, itâ€™s hard to guess which films will be dominating award shows and top ten lists. So far, my favorites include â€œThe Tree of Life,â€ â€œDrive,â€ and â€œMoneyball,â€ but there are plenty of promising films yet to be released. What I can say with certainty, regardless of what happens over the next few months, is that the following four actors will stand out as 2011â€™s biggest stars. Two of these people are genuine â€œbreak-out stars,â€ while the other two simply had, by far, the best years of their careers so far.
Itâ€™s understandable if this name is still unfamiliar to you â€“Jessica Chastain hasnâ€™t quite reached household name status. She has, however, delivered six widely acclaimed performances in one year. In 2011 alone, Chastain starred in â€œThe Tree of Life,â€ â€œThe Help,â€ â€œThe Debt,â€ as well as the upcoming â€œTake Shelter,â€ â€œWilde Salomeâ€ and â€œCoriolanus.â€ I adored her in â€œThe Tree of Lifeâ€ and her presence elevated â€œThe Helpâ€ and â€œThe Debtâ€ beyond uneven writing. â€œTake Shelter,â€ co-starring the excellent Michael Shannon, has garnered a lot of buzz following its Criticâ€™s Prize win at the Cannes Film Festival. As Mindy Kaling (â€œThe Officeâ€) humorously tweeted: â€œItâ€™s the era of Jessica Chastain and weâ€™re just living in it.â€
Ryan Gosling has been a known entity since 2004 when he starred in â€œThe Notebookâ€â€”a career-defining role that doesnâ€™t do him justice. Seven years later, heâ€™s come a long way. Gosling already proved his considerable skill in films like â€œLars and the Real Girlâ€ and â€œBlue Valentine,â€ but the release of â€œCrazy, Stupid, Love.,â€ â€œDriveâ€ and â€œThe Ides of Marchâ€ this year cemented Goslingâ€™s position as a captivating, versatile lead actor. His cocky-but-vulnerable character was the most consistently appealing part of â€œCrazy, Stupid, Love.,â€ which is no small feat when youâ€™re in a film with Steve Carrell and Julianne Moore. And whether or not you liked the stylistic choices in Nicolas Winding Refnâ€™s art action film â€œDrive,â€ you almost had to respect Goslingâ€™s quietly hypnotic performance as the unnamed protagonist. I have yet to see â€œThe Ides of March,â€ but Gosling is said to be at the top of his game in that film as well.
Fans of televisionâ€™s â€œGilmore Girlsâ€ have known Melissa McCarthy for a while, but it wasnâ€™t until this yearâ€™s scene-stealing turn in box office hit â€œBridesmaidsâ€ that McCarthy reached the mainstream audience. In â€œBridesmaids,â€ McCarthy added several organic layers to a character who, in the hands of a lesser actor, would have been a walking fat-joke. The subtlety and depth McCarthy exhibits in one key scene remains the most memorable part of the movie for me. Cementing 2011 as her break-out year, McCarthy recently won an Emmy for her sitcom â€œMike and Molly.â€ I hope McCarthy has a long future of roles worthy of her talent.
No longer known as â€œthat girl from â€˜Superbad,â€™â€ Emma Stone became a full-fledged star this year due to her outstanding work in â€œCrazy, Stupid, Love.â€ and â€œThe Help.â€ Stoneâ€™s funny, relatable onscreen persona reached new heights in these two films, the latter of which also showed off her considerable dramatic talent. Even in unglamorous performances, Stone manages to be funny, attractive and endearing.Â She also had a supporting role in this yearâ€™s better-than-expected â€œFriends with Benefits,â€ but her work in â€œThe Helpâ€ was likely her most impressive to-date and she more than held her own with Gosling, Carrell, and Moore in â€œCrazy, Stupid, Love.â€