Miss Sloane movie full length review - Controversy, corruption and callousness - oh my!
"Let's all go to the lobby. We'll get to talk with our elected representatives." Well, that is how lobbying, the practice of attempting to influence legislation, got its name ? at least 200 years ago.
Today, lobbyists are often paid representatives of companies or causes and are usually viewed in a negative light by the public. Citizens and media decry the influence of money in politics and criticize the methods of many lobbyists. The U.S. has relatively tight restrictions on lobbyists' activities, but that doesn't mean there aren't bad actors in the profession. Given all this controversy, it may seem an odd decision to make a movie with a lobbyist as the central character, but if you have a compelling story, focused on a timely and controversial issue, and attract A-listers to star and direct? you have "Miss Sloane" (R, 2:12).
Elizabeth Sloane (2-time Oscar nominee Jessica Chastain) is one of the most successful lobbyists in Washington D.C. ? and one of the most controversial. She has a reputation for having an icy personality and a steely resolve, for doing anything and everything necessary to serve her client ? and for winning. She has virtually no personal life (except for her visits to a local gigolo, played by Jake Lacy), she has insomnia (for which she takes pills ? and then other pills to stay awake ? so she's always working) and she's a "conviction lobbyist". She only works for a cause for which she has strong personal convictions.
When George DuPont (Oscar nominee and Golden Globe and Emmy winner Sam Waterston), partner at the law firm where Miss Sloane works, assigns her the job of working with the gun lobby to help defeat a bill requiring more stringent background checks for gun buyers, she laughs in his face, then quits and takes most of her team with her. Only her young mentee, Jane Molloy (Alison Pill), and Pat Connors (Michael Stuhlbarg), her liaison with the firm, stay behind. Of course, she's leaving the firm with a purpose. She has been hired by Rodolfo Schmidt (Mark Strong), the President of Peterson Wyatt, which opposes the gun lobby and is working for passage of that bill, the so-called Heaton-Harris amendment.
Miss Sloane gets right to work. She's a force of nature in the Peterson Wyatt conference room, immediately integrating her team with theirs, explaining her strategy and insisting that the campaign in support of Heaton-Harris can win. She gives everyone their marching orders, gets almost everyone on board, and either gets rid of or ignores those who stand in her way. Miss Sloane befriends a young Peterson Wyatt employee named Esme Manucharian (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), while energetically and unapologetically playing her role in the plan ? employing a combination of savvy, creative, unethical and even illegal methods ? and never with the prior approval of the increasingly dissatisfied Mr. Schmidt.
It's her bull-in-a-china-shop approach and lack of a moral compass that eventually gets Miss Sloane in big trouble with her employer, her team, and Congress. A committee, led by U.S. Senator Ron Sperling (2-time Oscar nominee and multiple Golden Globe and Emmy winner John Lithgow), investigates her and calls her to testify. She's annoyed at the process and strays from her lawyer's advice during the hearing, but she did tell/warn him that a good lobbyist "plays her trump card just after they play theirs." "Miss Sloane" features an anti-hero as a main character and focuses on one side of a highly controversial issue, but manages to be a surprisingly engaging movie. You'll marvel at Miss Sloan's skill, even as you are repulsed by her personality and/or her methods. Chastain brings this complex and troubled character to vivid life and still manages to make her somewhat sympathetic. She's backed up with a terrific cast, which includes some of the best character actors working today, not to mention a stable of promising newcomers. The script by first-time screenwriter Jonathan Perera and the direction of Oscar-nominee John Madden make a compelling case for increased background checks, but give very little voice to the other side of the debate. The film portrays the gun lobby and their political allies as unreasonably unyielding, cynical and amoral, as it puts the people on the other side in a sincere and almost heroic light (except for Miss Sloan herself). (The words "National Rifle Association", "Republican" and "Democrat" aren't used, but it's clear who is who.) In addition, some of the plot points feel contrived, but, as a whole, this is one entertaining and interesting film. "B"