It’s not that people don’t know the truth, they just don’t care. As long as their own policies are advanced, facts just don’t matter. In this taut political drama, “Miss Sloane” attempts to reveal what we know all too well. Even with an all-star supporting cast, this is still a one-woman show, showcasing the talents of Oscar nominee Jessica Chastain.
The script by rookie writer Jonathan Perera consists of snappy, protracted dialog reminiscent of TV’s “The West Wing.” It plays similar to many of TV’s current dramas, such as “Scandal” or “Madam Secretary.” Chastain grabs that dialog with gusto to portray this soulless Machiavellian lobbyist feared by friends and enemies alike. To her, policy is important, winning is imperative, but the satisfaction is destroying her opponent.
We’re not sure why Elizabeth Sloane (Chastain) is the way she is, but the arrogant pill popping activist is so sure of herself, she has a quip or witty retort to any question, a plan for any problem or issue and seems to be a step ahead of everyone else. We’ve seen characters like this before, but even Superman had to face some Kryptonite.
In this case, the new boogieman is the big bad gun lobby forcing weapons into the hands of soccer moms, yikes! The story would have been just as effective if they had used a less controversial issue, but this approach immediately turns off half the audience. Elizabeth has no fear of this behemoth, but begins presenting cliché’d arguments that are simply untrue. We had hoped for more credibility to this story.
From the Senate hearing room, the story flashes back three months to where this case began. In “Zero Dark Thirty” (2012) Chastain played an intelligent, capable and empowered professional, but here, she is a merciless autocrat, hell on heels and so ruthless with her staff and co-workers, her behavior resembles that of a sociopath.
In this high-stakes world of power brokers, Elizabeth is the most sought after and formidable lobbyist in town. Her cunning has helped establish an enviable track record of success, because she has done whatever it takes to win. Facing the most powerful opponent of her career, the question is just how far will she go? Speaking of how far, when did business meetings in the movies start taking place in public restrooms?
Director John Madden’s (“The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel”) first choice for the leading role was Chastain. Her performance should garner Oscar attention and advance her career, even though she is mostly a one-note barker. Her lines are technically well crafted, but she’s always believable as that character. The strong supporting cast includes Mark Strong, John Lithgow and Sam Waterston.
“Miss Sloane” is 132 minutes and rated R for language and some sexuality. This movie often takes itself too seriously and thinks its message is somehow profound. Then again, maybe it was when they made it. In the movie “Thank You for Smoking” (2005), the lobbyist explains it helps to be morally flexible. Here, the lobbyist is morally bankrupt.
Who knew passing legislation required the work of the Impossible Missions team? Even though it took too long to get to the payoff, the conclusion is mostly worth the wait. Maybe it does require a callous and conniving tyrant to make things happen. Sure, there’s no “I” in “team,” but there is a “me” in “awesome!”