Taut and Twisting Political Drama
With numerous outstanding performances in the bag, a Golden Globe in hand, two Oscar nods, and an equal number of Golden Globe nominations, Jessica Chastain is on the precipice of becoming one of Hollywood’s sure-fire, go-to actresses for instant box office success, right there alongside Amy Adams, Emma Stone, and Scarlett Johansson. She’s that good.
She keeps her property hot in Miss Sloane, a film which Chastain hoists onto her back and carries right into the awards season conversation. If only the film were as solid. It’s not that Miss Sloane is a bad film. It isn’t. In fact, with an above average script by first-timer Jonathan Perera, veteran director John Madden (Shakespeare in Love and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel) at the helm, and Chastain doing the heavy lifting as the ruthless titular character who schemes and manipulates her way to the top of her profession as a Washington lobbyist, Miss Sloane is a taut twisting political drama worthy of your attention.
When we first meet Elizabeth Sloane (Chastain), she’s being interrogated in front of a congressional investigative committee -- headed by Senator Ronald M. Sperling (John Lithgow) – that is looking into her questionable ethics as a Washington lobbyist.
The story then jumps back to how the whole thing started for Sloane as a star player at a conservative lobbying firm whose lead attorney, George Dupont (Sam Waterston), offers her a plum client in the form of the gun lobby, which wants her to work up a campaign to turn women against gun control. However, instead of taking the job, Sloane hand picks a staff and bolts across town to join a scrappy boutique firm that is pushing for a stricter gun control bill.
Her sudden flip-flop is puzzling to both her previous associates and her new ones. But the gun lobby is one of the most powerful in all of Washington and a win against it would certainly cement her place in the profession. Sloane is most at home in a sleazy world where everything is a strategy. After all, she’s a self-assured and utterly unscrupulous workaholic who rarely sleeps, eats only out of necessity, lies incessantly, pops pills, drinks, and meets regularly with a male escort.
With her blood-red lipstick, pale white skin, and perfectly-maintained coiff, Chastain has molded her character into a superhero of sorts. A dark arts lobbyist superhero whose sole interest is winning for her clients – anyone who gets in her way, be damned. Despite knowing little about her, her motivations, or her political convictions, thanks to Chastain, the character simply works. Sloane knows she’s a complicated mess of a human being and her struggles with that reality dovetail nicely into the film’s complex plot.
Gugu Mbatha-Raw is also worthy of mention as Esme, a passionate gun control advocate who gets sucked into Sloane’s scythe of domination. Other than some revealing moments spent with her escort, Sloane’s evolving relationship with Esme is the closest thing to warmth and human affection we get from her. We cherish every little revealing personal tidbit and squirm awkwardly as Sloane grapples with issuing a heartfelt apology for a devastating indiscretion involving Esme’s private life.
Yes, its hot-button subject matter risks alienating many of the Second Amendment absolutists out there, but it’s important to know that Miss Sloane never makes an argument for or against more gun laws. In fact, valid points are made on both sides of the issue. That’s not what the film is about. Perera’s script is best experienced as a fascinatingly unpredictable tale of politics and espionage that pulls back the curtain on the rarely seen and even less well-understood inner workings of the political influence peddling process. At the same time , Miss Sloane is a fascinating character study that allows an actress to sink herself into a role and come out on the other side with a masterful performance. That’s exactly what Jessica Chastain does in Miss Sloane.
(Released by EuropaCorp USA and rated “R” for language and some sexuality.)
Review also posted at www.franksreelreviews.com.