Miss Sloane online movie review - Unrealistic But Still Good
Part of what makes movies so important insofar as being cultural touchstones is occasionally they can capture the zeitgeist of the time.
They inhibit a unique space after all; at the vector of art, commerce and entertainment. So it would make sense that when a movie pinches a nerve we tend to pay attention.
Miss Sloane is not one of those movies. In fact, despite conscientiously and actively trying to be a happy warrior, the movie (largely through no fault of its own) settles for being woefully out of step with the rest of this season's Oscar bait. Critics and audiences alike have been excoriating the Jessica Chastain vehicle for being the ill-conceived amuse bouche of a Hillary Clinton victory. New York Times critic Stephen Holden referred to the film as "small potatoes" in light of the recent Presidential election while Lindsay Bahr of the Associated Press laments the film was "crafted in a different climate."
To those who don't already know, Miss Sloane is the story of a singularly talented, and sought after K Street lobbyist who takes on Washington's gun lobby seemingly just for kicks. Sloane (Chastian) along with a gaggle of loyal staff set up shop at a small firm, immediately take the place over and shift their weight towards a gun control bill slated for a slow death on Capitol Hill. Her Machiavellian tactics immediately ruffle feathers among her new allies, firm head Rodolfo Schmidt (Strong) and liberal do-gooder Esme Manucharian (Mbatha-Raw) as well as captures the ire of her former employers George Dupont (Waterston) and Pat Connors (Stuhlbarg). As the stakes are raised ever higher, it becomes clear to all involved that there is no depths Sloane won't sink to, to accomplish her goal.
Miss Sloane is almost exclusively an acting showcase for the lovely Jessica Chastain who up until this point has proved herself in films as varied as The Tree of Life (2011), A Most Violent Year (2014), Zero Dark Thirty (2012) and Take Shelter (2011). Chastain's unexpected Hollywood rise has led to more memorable roles this decade than arguably any other actress. Here however, Chastain is completely off the chain, voraciously devouring the role and the victims of her machinations like a hungry python. Make no mistake the titular character here is a monster - as morally corrupt, irredeemable and she is frustratingly clever.
The politics of the film are unabashedly liberal which could automatically alienate some viewers. Tucked away in the film's incessant quips and political jargon there are a few casual swipes at American gun owners that feel very on the nose. Yet before burning the film an effigy we should be cognizant of the fact that as a political thriller, the protagonists need to have a political stance of some kind - a cause worth rallying behind, a policy worth forwarding. What better stance is there for a formidable lobbyist whose looking for a coup de grace than going up against the most effective American lobbying group in history.
Many have rightfully compared the look and feel of Miss Sloane to that of Scandal (2012-Present) while the dialogue has a Sorkin-esque bent that's purely West Wing (1999-2006). Yet Miss Sloane finds a comfortable space in-between those two political TV traditions keeping the quippy intelligence of one while playing with the bitterness of the other like a cat and its yarn.
Of course that kind of playfulness can only get you so far which is why when the completely unique and not at all overplayed motif of money and politics has run its course, we're brought into Sloane's head-space as a damaged working woman. She hides her scars well, even from staff and perfect strangers that have nothing to gain but her trust. Perhaps these brief moments of humanization might be old hat to some but while Sloane was at her lowest I kept asking myself would I feel differently if the protagonist was a man?
If there is one glaring problem in this film it's the third act; which builds itself up as a big juicy twist but ultimately feels like a cheat. The tension of Miss Sloane's non-linear story structure in conjunction with the film's very first lines "Lobbying is about foresight" definitely builds it up nicely, but once we finally get there it feels like the taut cord of suspension of disbelief has been completely severed. Perhaps if Miss Sloane was adapted into a TV show, the sweeps-week ending could have been forgiven but since the film doesn't earn goodwill on the part of any other character other than Sloane, the whole thing falls apart.
That said, Miss Sloane is still a riveting little political thriller that is elevated to 11 by Jessica Chastain's brave, ruthless and calculated performance. It reaches the dynamism of films like The Contender (2000) and seems to have a lot to say about money in politics, women in politics and the brinkmanship that takes place behind the scenes.