09/14/2011 04:37 pm ET Updated Nov 14, 2011

Take Shelter in Times of Terror and Tornadoes

The actress Jessica Chastain, lovely in a lace Carolina Herrera dress, plunked herself down on a cushion removing her beige platforms in relief after rounds of photos and interviews. A publicist was sheltering the petite redhead from the Post's Page Six editor. This was the after party for a new film, Take Shelter, at the Vault at Pfaff's, where the wait staff was dressed in Christian Siriano strapless chiffon cocktail dresses with bejeweled waistbands in celebration of that downtown boite's opening. Chastain's deglamorized look in Take Shelter as the loyal wife of a troubled construction worker, t-shirts and non-designer jeans with tousled mane, might be closer to the real Jessica. One of the great pleasures of this Sundance favorite is seeing Chastain's work with Michael Shannon.

A consummate New York actor, Shannon is fascinating to watch as his mind unravels with hallucinations of dust storms, whirling air masses that drive him to create an underground shelter. Director Jeff Nichols said the movie expressed real fears about protecting his own family. Graced by the love of his wife, Shannon goes over the deep end.

As the federal agent with a hidden agenda in Boardwalk Empire, Shannon plays god-fearing and kinky. His co-stars, just wrapping on the second season, filled the room, including Michael Stuhlbarg and Aleksa Palladino. In Machine Gun Preacher, Shannon plays a junky sidekick to Gerard Butler as Sam Childers. He plays well with actors in Take Shelter but in the stage play he did last year, Mistakes Were Made, he co-starred with a mechanical goldfish. The actor told me, "I worked with goldfish before, in a pet shop in Chicago called Fishbowl."

Meantime, the summer has felt like a Chastain festival: to name two, she stars as a decidedly unconventional Southern housewife in The Help and a Mossad secret agent in The Debt, on a special mission to kill a Nazi doctor. The Juilliard-trained actress has made 11 movies starting 4 years ago with Wilde Salome directed by Al Pacino.

"I had a year of Al Pacino training me. How bad is that?"

A version of this post also appears on Gossip Central.