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Miss Sloane sits squarely on the shoulders of Jessica Chastain's performance -- and she responds with awards-worthy work that single-handedly elevates the film.
All Critics (186)
| Top Critics (37)
| Fresh (141)
| Rotten (45)
Elizabeth Sloane is a character so archetypal, so prescriptive, that you imagine she wasn't born in normal human fashion but rather created in a lab from leftover vials of testosterone and male tears.
Following a pair of sojourns to the adorable Marigold Hotel, John Madden (Shakespeare in Love) takes a giant step forward with this perfectly timed tale of how to draw and quarter a lobbyist.
Miss Sloane is a powerfully conceived thriller with something dead at its centre: there is no reason a female protagonist must be good or well-behaved, but she must at least be interesting.
We don't need to like her, but Chastain makes us understand and even sympathize with her, ruthless and cunning though she may be. It's remarkable work.
As a dramatic thriller, it does what it needs to do to keep the audience involved and interested, even if some of its most theatrical tricks and twists are more the products of a writer's invention than actual Washington D.C. activities.
The movie shares with other mainstream political dramas an easy notion of Washington as a hopeless cesspool of sellouts, paybacks, and heinous personal betrayals.
It's too long and falls far short of the quality it thinks it contains, but Miss Sloane is always an engaging watch. Its strongest asset? The ferocious, outstanding, inimitable Jessica Chastain.
Miss Sloane isn't a bad movie. In fact, it's pretty good. It just isn't quite good enough to reach the ambitious heights to which it so transparently aspires.
Miss Sloane's flashy yet witless repartee suggests profundity yet exposes nothing.
Miss Sloane is a well-played political chess game.
Miss Sloane is more interested in pure wish fulfillment at its conclusion than embracing the ethical ambiguity that its character has demonstrated since the opening scenes.
Provides enough twists and turns with a smart screenplay by Perera and a strong performance Chastain to make it a good recommendation.
It is certainly more interesting than one would expect from a movie about lobbying, but it also feels forced and silly at times, with an ending that is proud of its own stupidity and a protagonist who is more a caricature of the workaholic "machine woman" than an actual person.
Miss Sloane comes from first time screenwriter Jonathan Perera and promotes the idea that to get ahead in the vicious game of D.C. lobbying one has to know their subject. Perera obviously knows his subject. How Perera, who was living in Asia at the time he wrote the screenplay and who only optioned his work to literary agents over the internet before securing a production deal knows so much about the inside dealings of those hired to persuade legislators to support particular businesses or causes is a mystery, but he seems to have done a fair amount of research. Either that or what he feeds us in Miss Sloane is a huge pile of eloquently written BS. Like an Aaron Sorkin script (I haven't seen The Newsroom, but I imagine this might feel very similar) where dialogue is almost more important than emotion Miss Sloane fast tracks the audience through a deluge of day to day activities that a lobbyist at the top of their game such as the titular Sloane played with vicious velocity by the one and only Jessica Chastain might engage in. We are given little time to keep up and even less to really gauge what Sloane and her team are working on as the focus is not meant to highlight what kind of case our titular lobbyist and her team are working on, but more how keenly they are framing it to their client's advantage. While the objective for a lobbyist is the end-game it is the getting there, the journey if you will, that requires the creativity of someone in Sloane's position and the more creative one is the better the reputation they garner in their professional circles despite undoubtedly garnering a worse one among friends. Of course, this is why it is also made clear Sloane has no family or friends to speak of or to. It is a vicious circle of sorts and Perera makes that evident by reiterating the importance of how information is framed by framing his own film with that aforementioned end-game. In Miss Sloane the end-game is a hearing on Capitol Hill in Caucus Room 4 of the U.S. Senate. What is she doing here? What has brought her to this point? What accusation is being thrown around and what does it have to do with her abilities and/or the moral ambiguities of her techniques? Each are questions begged as small increments of information are fed the viewer within the epilogue of the film, but once the main narrative takes over it is easy to forget that framing device and simply go along for the ride which is exactly what Perera would prefer you do as he finds trouble in both sticking the ending and making it credible enough that we don't question how well he really does know his subject.
read the whole review at www.reviewsfromabed.com
SUCH A NASTY WOMAN - My Review of MISS SLOANE (3 Stars)
John Madden directed the Academy Award Winning film, SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE, and think what you will, but it contained such as woozy, winning charm. Although his career has been dotted with similarly toned projects, he has shown a harder edge with such movies as THE DEBT, KILLSHOT, PROOF, and the pilot to MASTERS OF SEX. None of that prepared me for the relentlessly dark tone that is MISS SLOANE. First time screenwriter, Jonathan Perera has crafted a bleak, tough story of a tough DC lobbyist who switches sides from an NRA-backed, pro-gun stance to the weaker opposition who favor stricter vetting of gun owners.
Jessica Chastain plays Elizabeth Sloane, who comes across like Faye Dunaway's harder, more aggressive cousin to her Diane Christensen character in NETWORK. Like Christensen, Sloane has virtually no back story. We know she suffers no fools, takes a lot of pills to calm her nerves, and releases tension by hiring a male escort from time to time. And that's about it. When she switches sides in the first act, we're not sure if she has a moral compass, if she just wants the challenge, or if she wants to win. Chastain's challenge, therefore, is to keep us interested in this harsh character, despite our lack of information, and I'm happy to say she does just that in a blazing, percussive, non-stop, full throttle performance.
She makes a lot enemies right off the bat, when she pulls a Jerry Maguire and leaves Sam Waterston's firm, taking the best people right along with her. The opposition is led by Rodolfo Schmidt (Marc Strong) and Sloane establishes herself right away as a rogue lobbyist who has very little care for the damage she causes others on her path to victory.
I watched this film immediately after seeing 20TH CENTURY WOMEN, which makes no bones about its feminist leanings. By contrast, MISS SLOANE is so strident that I wondered if it was misogynistic or if it was attempting to present a woman in the same manner as any man doing this job. The truth lies somewhere in between. Throughout the film, I kept reflecting back on Donald Trump's comment about Hillary Clinton during their last debate (hint: see title of this review). So many people, men and women, who see this film may easily dismiss Sloane as a single-minded careerist who needs to be put in her place. I, however, saw it as a portrait of a woman who gets lost in her attempts to win at all costs. You may not agree with her tactics, but Chastain makes it impossible to look away.
The movie itself isn't great. In fact, it lacks credibility at times, but Madden really knows how to keep things sleek and moving along. I wasn't bored for a second, and there's a healthy dose of Aaron Sorkin-style smarts in the dialogue and plot twists. In addition to Waterston using his crooked mouth to optimal effect, Gugu Mbatha-Raw provides the heart and soul of the film as an aide whose personal life suffers greatly by helping Sloane make her case. Alison Pill is sharp and vivid as a lobbyist who refuses to join Sloane on her crusade and stays behind with the pro-gun side. John Lithgow oozes smarm and corruption out of his pores as a Senator who presides over an Ethics Hearing accusing Sloane of malpractice.
The story begins in media res, starting at the hearing and working back to explain the reasons why Sloane consistently invokes her 5th Amendment right to not answer any questions. Lithgow tries to break Sloane, which would surely ruin her chances at success. It's a beautifully sustained section in which the tension really snaps.
Truth be told, MISS SLOANE plays out like a TV series pilot along the lines of DAMAGES, but the dynamics, the fun, smart dialogue, and the succinct images provided by cinematographer Sebastian Blenkov make for a decently entertaining film. It forces you to sit up and pay attention so that you can participate in its delicious twists and turns.
Chastain, for me, wavers between reticent, dewy-eyed performances like those in INTERSTELLAR and TREE OF LIFE and showy stuff like her work in THE HELP, ZERO DARK THIRY, and CRIMSON PEAK. Her performance in MISS SLOANE ranks among her finest. You simply can't take your eyes off of her, despite a character who lacks some essential layers. It's not essential viewing, but her acting may just be enough for most who see this film.
Miss Sloane is an intelligent and exacting political thriller that should appease fans of the genre who enjoy a good arm-twisting from a powerful manipulator, in this instance the towering and intimidating full force of Jessica Chastain. She plays the titular Sloane, the best lobbyist inside the beltway, and a woman who leaves the comfort of her firm for the challenge of taking on the gun industry to help pass a reform bill. From there it's an underdog tale powered by the winds of moral righteousness and given a tough-talking yet flawed hero that will burn down whatever she can, including her own reputation, to win. The biggest draw is the performance from Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty) as she gets to yell at people for approximately two hours and look good doing it. It's a game of persuasion and leverage and D.C. voter politics, and she makes the constant stream of information accessible while providing a focal point for our interest. It's a pretty information heavy film with a minimal of supporting characters that stand out (Gugu Mbatha-Raw as a school shooting survivor-turned-team member is the notable exception). With her victory never in doubt no matter the odds, the movie establishes that it exists in a parallel world where actual gun control reforms can be advanced. In the wake of doing nothing from Sandy Hook, this must be a fantasy world. Director John Madden (The Debt) keeps the tone as cool and calculated as his heroine. The script by Jonathan Perera is plenty smart though the final act relies upon some unbelievable shenanigans that betray its sense of pragmatic realism. Still, the cunning gamesmanship of a pro working the levers of power for a worthy cause allows for some liberal fantasy indulgence. Miss Sloane is a suitably entertaining thriller that whisks you away and says even "bad people" have a purpose in our broken political system.
Nate's Grade: B
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