MOVIE REVIEW: Miss Sloane
“MISS SLOANE”-- 4 STARS
In some political circles, “lobbyists” are the advocates that “get things done.” In others, the job title is a dirty word than many are quick to refute or redefine. When Hollywood screenwriters decide to lionize the role of the lobbyist, they hop on the #NastyWoman bandwagon, cast Oscar nominee Jessica Chastain, and give you “Miss Sloane.” For all of the sound bite talk about “draining the swamp” to kill the metaphorical mosquitoes, doing so leaves the carnivores behind. Make no mistake, “Miss Sloane” showcases a true apex predator.
Speaking diatribes to her opponents centered on trump cards, surprises, and foresight, Elizabeth Sloane (Chastain) finds herself flustering her lawyer and requesting her Fifth Amendment rights behind the microphones and TV cameras of a Senate hearing calling for her head on a pike for unethical and unlawful tactics. Three months earlier, Sloane was the most formidable and sought-after lobbyist on Capitol Hill when she turned her back on her firm’s superiors, Pat Connors (Michael Stuhlbarg) and George DuPont (Sam Waterson), who ordered her to represent the most lucrative lobby in D.C.: the conservative pro-gun lobby.
Refusing to back a political stance against her beliefs, the career opportunist is wooed by the underdog cause of a smaller boutique lobbying firm in town headed by savvy straight arrow Rodolfo Schmidt (Mark Strong). Poaching many of her trusted staff members, save for her beleaguered personal assistant Jane Molloy (Alison Pill), Sloane’s aim is to beat her former bosses at their own game with less bankroll and even less clout, supported by a naive face and new point person, Esme Manucharian (Gugu Mbatha-Raw). The objective is to secure a filibuster-proof 60 votes in the U.S. Senate on a hot button upcoming legislation bill calling for mandatory universal background checks on all firearm transactions.
Taking no prisoners and showing a resolve to play any agenda to win, the fiery redhead with porcelain skin brims with confidence that can sear egos to ashes on a whim to prove a point and boost her success. Raging rapids of shouted Second Amendment vitriol, media spin, dirty deeds, competing poisons, political traps, double crosses, and triple crosses flow to create the outrageous twists and turns of “Miss Sloane” as it closes the gap between her crossroads switch and the present-day Senate grilling led by Senator Ron Sperling (John Lithgow).
Jessica Chastain is nothing short of electric in the title role. Hot damn, does she ever talk the talk and walk the walk! She gives no quarter as her character, leading to the best cinematic mic drop of the year, or in her performance in arguably the most provocative female lead performance this awards season. The wake Chastain creates is substantial, bowling over notable scene adversaries like Mbatha-Raw, Waterson, Stuhlbarg, Strong, and Lithgow. This is her show and no one has a chance of stealing it from her.
“Miss Sloane” is ballsy return to thrillers for “Shakespeare in Love” director John Madden after two “Best Exotic Marigold Hotel” movies for softies. The longer the film rolls the more deliciously deranged the preposterousness gets. Sharpened Aaron Sorkin-Lite dialogue written by first-time screenwriter Jonathan Perera is blasted like buckshot to knock down any weak individual or principle blocking either side’s fury. More often than not, the ones blasted are clueless white male politicians, which is fun in and of itself. “Miss Sloane” is the kind of movie that would give political animals of either party designation a combination of wet dreams and feverish nightmares.
LESSON #1: "PREPARATION IS THE KEY TO SUCCESS"-- You can borrow this quote from Alexander Graham Bell or the bolder Sun Tzu line “every battle is won before it’s ever fought.” Elizabeth Sloane calls it foresight and countermeasures and plans for every contingency from Day 1. She defines that the key is holding your trump card to play until after your opponent plays theirs.
LESSON #2: PEOPLE ARE PROFESSIONAL RESOURCES-- Elizabeth Sloane maintains an extremely small circle of trust, namely herself. Everyone else is commodity, obstacle, leverage point, or waste of time, from her co-workers and contacts all the way down to the male escort she pays for a physical and emotional outlet. You are not included in her world without a purpose to play.
LESSON #3: REAL-LIFE LOBBYISTS ARE NOTHING LIKE THE ONES IN THIS MOVIE-- Let’s end on the necessary disclaimer. Feel free to revisit those links from the introduction that seek to dispel the misnomers. Lobbyists may very well be a bucket of snakes, but if they even did a tenth of the shocking shenanigans found in “Miss Sloane” the political world would scorch the Earth and we would know about it.