John Madden, dir.
Jonathan Perera, script
Starring: Jessica Chastain (Elizabeth Sloane), Mark Strong (Rodolfo Schmidt), Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Esme Manucharian), Alison Pill (Jane Molloy), Michael Stuhlbarg (Pat Connors), Jake Lacy (Forde), Sam Waterson (George Dupont), John Lithgow (Senator Sperling)
One of the sad things about the Oscar season is the lack of celebration for some worthy films and performers. Take Miss Sloane. It’s a political thriller about Washington insiders manipulating events in order to get legislation passed for corporations that can afford to pay for high-powered lobbyists. With Trump elected, a film critiquing the American system will hardly be as attractive for audiences as would a country (and world!) preparing for a Clinton White House. One could easily make a case that a film like Miss Sloane, with witty dialogue and razor sharp observations about power brokers, could hardly be more out of favour than at the present moment.
At the centre of Miss Sloane is the titular character, a brilliant and apparently heartless lobbyist, who is played to perfection by Jessica Chastain. Snapping off her lines with aplomb, Chastain plays a complete control freak, dominating her team of lobbyists, who are enthralled (and sometimes appalled) by her I.Q., hard work, and absolute devotion to whatever project she is tackling. Chastain’s Sloane is so devoted to her work that she refuses to have a boyfriend, paying for an escort service to take care of her physical needs. That’s devotion!
Structured in classic thriller style, we first see Sloane in front of a Senatorial investigation committee, where she is combating charges of fraud. Her real crime, we discover in flashbacks, is that she left a major conservative lobbying group in order to work with a smaller, leftist organization that is fighting for legislation against guns. Taking on the gun lobby is tough, we soon realize, even for someone as talented as Miss Sloane.
Were this a different year politically, Miss Sloane might be up for Oscars. Certainly, Jessica Chastain’s performance would be appearing on Oscar lists. That’s not happening. So if you want to see a very intelligent film, with a lot of twists and turns, and a great lead performance, I recommend that you see Miss Sloane soon. If not, your only chance will be on small screens where the film may finally get the informed audience it deserves.
Written by Marc Glassman
Adjunct Professor, Ryerson University
Director, Pages UnBound: the festival and series
Editor, POV Magazine
Editor, Montage Magazine
Film Critic, The New Classical FM
Film programmer, Planet in Focus
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