Miss Sloane (R) ★★★

Jessica Chastain stars in “Miss Sloane.” Photo Credit EuropaCorp Films.

“Miss Sloane” Is Ambitious, Fierce 

If this past election has taught us anything, it’s that politics is an ugly business. Even more troubling than the viciousness of elections is that even with all of the time and money spent on campaigns, many argue that lobbyists, Super PACs, pollsters and strategists actually control D.C., not our elected officials. While it may seem like a cynical view, it’s at the heart of the of Miss Sloane, a drama that dives into the world of the lobbying. This often unflattering look at Washington lobbyists portrays them as unethical powerbrokers who will do anything to help their clients get what they want. It’s no wonder that the protagonist in this film confesses when it comes to morality, “I don’t even know where the line is.” 

Elizabeth Sloane, (Jessica Chastain, The Martian, 2015), the eponymous “hero” in Miss Sloane as the star lobbyist at one the most powerful firms in D.C. Elizabeth will seemingly use anything at her disposal to fight against regulation or taxation that threaten her clients, whether they be Fortune 500 companies or foreign countries.

Sloane’s win-at-all-costs tactics and impressive record attracts a potentially huge new client, the gun rights campaign, to her firm’s office for a meeting. The head of the gun rights’ lobby is looking for her services in converting women, who have not been gun allies traditionally, to their cause and thwart a new gun regulation bill that is an impending vote in the Senate. Sloane laughs at the proposed strategy to woo women and flippantly promises to look at the numbers, which later results in a lecturing from her irate boss (Sam Watterson, Newsroom, 2014).

That night, despite a call from her doctor telling her she needs to dial back her hard-charging lifestyle; Sloane attends a D.C. gala to meet with the fellow Washington elite. Outside of the gala, she is unknowingly broached by the head of the anti-gun lobby, Rodolfo Schmidt (Mark Strong, Kingsman: The Secret Service, 2016). Schmidt heard that Sloane did not warmly embrace the pro-gun campaign and asks if she would be willing to change sides and work for him. Sloane laughs at his prospects of winning against one of the most well-funded lobbyists in D.C. Nonetheless, the next day she shockingly resigns in front of her team to join Schmidt in passing the gun regulation bill and poaches several members of her team.

Upon arriving at her new office, Sloane quickly takes charge with her no-nonsense style and outlines her strategy to get the 60 Senate votes needed to pass the bill. Soon after Elizabeth and her team start chipping away at her goal of converting the undecided voters, she quickly realizes she has her work cut for her. She needs to battle against her old firm, which was retained by the pro-gun side to lead the charge against her and also has no ethics when it comes to winning. Not merely satisfied at killing the vote, the pro-gun campaign wants to destroy Elizabeth and is using her former protégé to anticipate her moves. As the battle between the two sides unfolds, it’s clear both sides are willing to do anything to win even if it means destroying the lives of the people around them. With the vote looming, the fight to pass the bill involves many twists and turns that will keep audiences on their toes.

Miss Sloane is a solid political movie that feels like a cross between the TV shows “Scandal” and “Newsroom,” especially with its quick-witted dialogue and twists. What separates Miss Sloane from those shows are the performances. Jessica Chastain continues to build on her resume of playing strong, no-nonsense women just as she did in Zero Dark Thirty and The Martian.  Chastain drives the movie forward during her scenes and makes an amoral Washington lobbyist into a sympathetic character, (which didn’t seem possible for a majority of the film). Mark Strong, does an excellent job as her new boss, and serves as the moral center of the movie as he is devoted to his cause, but will not stoop to Elizabeth’s level. This movie is strengthened by the performances of Elizabeth’s rivals, particularly Michael Stuhlberg (Jobs, 2015) and Sam Waterson. Stuhlberg, who famously played the conniving gangster, Arnold Rothstein, in Boardwalk Empire, and Waterson, who most audiences associate with integrity based on his long-time role in Law & Order, are both very natural and believable as cold-hearted, lobbyists.

Despite the great acting and intelligent dialogue, this film may not be for everyone, especially those who are burnt out after this election. The film could use some edits as it runs over 130 minutes and the quick dialogue requires viewers to pay attention to every detail to follow along. Also, the movie does not portray the gun right’s lobby in the best light, which may offend some audience members. Despite these shortcomings, this film is still an interesting, smart journey into “how the sausage is made” in Washington these days and worth seeing in theaters or renting depending on your mood.

Bottom Line: Miss Sloane is ambitious, both the film and the character. Chastain is excellent in her leading role and has clearly made a place for herself as an authoritative, female actor. The film is quick, thought provoking and entertaining. Depending on your political bent or current mood based on the recent election, this film may not be for everyone, however.

Credits: Directed by John Madden: Written by Jonathan Perera

Cast: Jessica Chastain (Elizabeth Sloane), Alison Pill (Jane Molloy), Mark Strong II (Rodolfo Schmidt), Michael Stuhlbarg (Pat Connors), Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Esme Manucharian), Jake Lacey (Robert Forde)

Studio: EuropaCorp Films

Running Time: 132 minutes

Jessica Aymond © November 30, 2016