Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Miss Sloane

Despite the mediocre reviews it has received from critics, Miss Sloane came close to getting four stars from me and making it into my top ten. I found every minute of this fast-paced drama entertaining and Jessica Chastain deserves an Oscar for her terrific performance in the lead role. 

Elizabeth Sloane (Chastain) is a brilliant Washington lobbyist for whom winning is all there is. She sleeps very little (if at all), living off of drugs that help her stay awake and functioning. She doesn’t have time for a relationship or family that would distract her from her single-minded (obsessive) drive to win every lobbying case put before her. In fact, Sloane is so eager for a challenge, so she can show just how brilliant she is, that when Rodolfo Schmidt (Mark Strong) asks her to lead a case that can’t be won, she accepts, even though it means quitting her firm (and taking half her team with her). 

The case in question is a bill in the senate that will make it more difficult to purchase a gun, an issue about which Sloane apparently has strong views (though ethics in general are not her string suit). Sloane’s new team includes Esme Manucharian (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), a young woman who had survived a mass high school shooting, so also has strong views on the subject. 

Back at Sloane’s former office, we have her former assistant, Jane Molloy (Alison Pill), and her former bosses, Pat Connors (Michael Stuhlbarg) and George Dupont (Sam Waterston) fighting against Sloane and hoping to use their inside knowledge of her methods to stop her. But Sloane is determined to do whatever it takes to beat them, even if it means hurting her colleagues and destroying her health and reputation.

It’s not easy to sympathize with a cold protagonist like Sloane, but Chastain’s performance makes it possible to come close. The other performers mentioned above to a commendable job as well (and I should note that John Lithgow is great as a key senator). And there are no complaints from me about the cinematography and score or John Madden’s direction. 

What prevents Miss Sloane from getting four stars is the writing. While much of newcomer Jonathan Perera’s screenplay is intelligent and sharp, it is clearly the work of an Aaron Sorkin wannabe that falls well short of Sorkin’s masterful way with dialogue. Without the ‘zing’ of Sorkin’s writing, a story like this loses too much credibility. Perra’s heart is in the right place, but too often his dialogue is a stretch, and the subject of the film (gun control) is never convincingly handled or profoundly discussed. Maybe next time.

Nevertheless, like I said, I enjoyed watching every minute of this film and especially enjoyed watching Chastain’s performance, so Miss Sloane gets a solid ***+ from me. My mug is up. 

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