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Dan's Review: Chastain's performance the only saving grace of "Miss Sloane"

Dec 10, 2016 11:54AM ● Published by Dan Metcalf

Jessica Chastain in Miss Sloane - © 2016 EuropaCorp.

Miss Sloane (EuropaCorp)

Rated R for language and some sexuality.

Starring Jessica Chastain, Mark Strong, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Alison Pill, Michael Stuhlbarg, Jake Lacy, Sam Waterston, John Lithgow, Jack Murray, Grace Lynn Kung, Raoul Bhaneja, Chuck Shamata, Douglas Smith, Meghann Fahy, Lucy Owen, Zach Smadu, Austin Strugnell, Noah Robbins, Alexandra Castillo, Aaron Hale, Greta Onieogou, Al Mukadam.

Written by Jonathan Perera.

Directed by John Madden.

GRADE: B-

REVIEW:

Whenever a major film tries to “tackle” a controversial social phenomenon, it seems that no one really learns anything. Films fare much better when they appeal to a broader range of ideas, or are at least subtle in their approach. Taking sides tends to polarize, turning away half of the population. So, audiences you discover that gun control is the main conflict in John Madden’s new political drama Miss Sloane, there’s an automatic preconception involved. Putting aside such bias, I viewed Miss Sloane on its merits as a film, rather than the political/social point of view behind it.

Jessica Chastain plays Elizabeth Sloane, a take-no-prisoners Washington D.C. lobbyist working for a firm headed by George Dupont (Sam Waterston) and Pat Connors (Michael Stuhlbarg, who seems to appear in every film these days). When the firm is approached by the powerful (NRA-type) pro-gun association to represent their interests, Sloane rejects the idea. She is recruited by a rival lobbyist firm headed by Rodolfo Schmidt (Mark Strong) and joins the opposition instead. Elizabeth uses all her dirty tricks to thwart the gun lobby, including illegal surveillance, staged protests, and placing the lives of her staff in danger. One staffer named Esme Manucharian (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) is a survivor of a “Columbine”-like school shooting, and Sloane uses her to exploit the cause. Meanwhile, her old firm is working to destroy Sloane by using their influence over Senator Ron Sperling (John Lithgow). Sperling launches a federal investigation into Sloane’s illegal activities, and she is brought before a senate panel. At the very moment of her apparent demise, Sloane pulls her last trump card and surprises all her foes.

Miss Sloane has only one thing going for it: Jessica Chastain. Her performance and screen presence are the only reasons to see the film. Chastain is a beautifully skilled actor, but Miss Sloane is a muddled fable wrought with stereotypical iconography and melodramatic pretense, right down to the mustache-twirling gun lobbyists and the Deus Ex Machina resolution. There is plenty of practical improbability in the plot, too, including the climactic Perry Mason-esque revelation from the witness stand. There is also an argument made for “the end justifies the means” at play in the movie, suggesting that two wrongs make a right.

I get it. The struggle between Second Amendment rights and gun control is a touchy subject, and there are good arguments for both sides of the debate, but Miss Sloane is a movie that will preach to the choir or repel others, depending on your political/social leanings. There isn’t much to learn from Miss Sloane, other than reasserting what a great actor Jessica Chastain is.


Miss Sloane trailer

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