Bright Elizabeth Sloane (Jessica Chastain) works as a ruthless lobbyist in Washington. One day, to everybody’s consternation, she switches sides and takes on the firearms lobby.
“Lobbying,” the titular character in John Madden’s new film declares, is about “foresight. It’s about making sure you surprise the opposition, and they don’t surprise you.” Certainly, MISS SLOANE contains plenty of surprises and not all of them good. Elizabeth Sloane, superbly played by Jessica Chastain, is a ruthless Washington lobbyist with a seemingly preternatural talent for surprising her opponents; a rising star in an industry that rewards moral expediency. The film’s central conflict concerns two lobbying firms on either side of a bill to introduce greater controls on gun purchases and our heroine, in the first of several surprises, jumps ship to fight the good fight against the gun lobby.
Sloane’s dirty tricks allow the filmmakers to pull off some dirty tricks of their own, which makes for entertaining viewing, but a barely credible plot. The various cinematic tricks deployed by the filmmakers; jump cuts, walk-and-talk scenes, and a twisty narrative structure, are all intended to pillory the viewer into thinking the film’s script is better than it is.
At points, the repetitive one-two punch approach becomes simply exhausting and distracts from the better exchanges in Jonathan Perera’s uneven script and work of the uniformly excellent cast. Aside from Chastain, Mark Strong and Gugu Mbatha-Raw deserve praise for their performances as Sloane’s idealistic new boss and vulnerable co-worker respectively. Mbatha-Raw’s character functions as something approaching the film’s conscience, counter-balancing Sloane’s ruthlessness and desire to win at all costs.
Comparisons with Aaron Sorkin’s NEWSROOM and THE WEST WING are inevitable given the film’s setting, fast-paced dialogue, and dramatic framing of constitutional arguments (and perhaps also its sloppy portrayal of right-wing characters as baddies of almost cartoon simplicity), however, the dialogue isn’t tempered by the humour that made Sorkin’s relentlessly intelligent characters easy to believe in and root for.
Special-interest lobbies are relatively fresh material for big-budget Hollywood movies, but this film unfortunately skirts the broader implications of money in politics to focus on a character too exemplary to be representative of the industry in which she works and finally too ingenious to be believable. Similar themes have been explored elsewhere in films such as MICHAEL CLAYTON or THANK YOU FOR NOT SMOKING to much greater success. Ultimately, MISS SLOANE is a slick film that, despite an excellent lead performance and capable direction, is let down by an overwritten, uneven script and a conclusion bordering on the absurd.
Original title: Miss Sloane
USA 2016, 132 min
Genre: Drama, Thriller
Director: John Madden
Author: Jonathan Perera
DOP: Sebastian Blenkov
Montage: Alexander Berner
Music: Max Richter
Distributor: Universum Film
Cast: Alison Pill, John Lithgow, Sam Waterston, Dylan Baker, Mark Strong, Michael Stuhlbarg, Jessica Chastain, Gugu Mbatha-Raw
- OV Original version
- OmU Original with German subtitles
- OmeU Original with English subtitles
ALLE ANGABEN OHNE GEWÄHR.
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