Jacob Richardson | 07/03/2017
Jessica Chastain stuns in this otherwise middle-of-the-road political lobbyist drama.
Miss Sloane follows Jessica Chastain’s titular Elizabeth Sloane; a well-respected, narcoleptic political lobbyist who bends the rules but never quite breaks them. When she is pressured by her boss to come up with a campaign on behalf of the NRA to destroy a gun bill, Sloane accepts an offer to go and work for the other side with a small, boutique lobbying firm run by Mark Strong.
Emboldened by the challenge, she takes half of her old team with her. The film goes on to detail her exploits and tactics in pursuit of victory, all interspersed with flash forwards to a Sloane’s congressional hearing on her ethics as a lobbyist.
Chastain relishes her no-nonsense, razor smart, witty and strong character. She’s perfectly coiffured, always 10 steps ahead, and utterly ruthless. It is an utter joy to watch her, and she really makes the film come alive. She’s supported by some solid actors around her, including Mark Strong, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, and John Lithgow, but they are all dwarfed by Chastain’s towering, powerful performance. The script is also fast and full of dialogue that tries to be Sorkin-esque but falls a little bit short. Nevertheless, it is certainly entertaining watching characters spew forth insight with the speed and choreography of a ballet.
Unfortunately, the story doesn’t measure up to the performance. Instead, Miss Sloane feels a little tired. We’ve seen similar tales before, and certainly some of the same beats are hit here. The big twist at the end doesn’t register as a surprise, and some of the myriad twists and turns are predictable. The actual subject matter as well lends itself an air of dis-believability. Gun control seems so impossible in the real America that this comes across as wish fulfillment.
In the end though, Miss Sloane doesn’t bog itself down in too much political preaching, instead deciding to focus on its title character. It is a good decision by director John Madden, because it makes the film invariably more entertaining. Madden also strips Sloane of much of her backstory; a refreshing change of pace. We don’t get to hear about what made Elizabeth into this unfeeling, unrelenting lobbyist machine, and frankly we don’t want to. Instead, all we need to know is that this is how she is, and from there we can enjoy the story and marvel at her ability to seemingly anticipate any move and get anything done.
Miss Sloane, much like it’s title character, is a flashy, rapid-fire drama entirely dominated by Jessica Chastain. It is entertaining, but lacks the substance to make itself into anything more than an enjoyable 2 hours.