By Marc S. Sanders

Jessica Chastain is an aggressive actress. The talent is on par with Meryl Streep or Katherine Hepburn for sure, and the Oscar trophy she won earlier this year is evident of that. Actually, she’s worthy of more than just one. My question, though, is if she is too aggressive. Films like Zero Dark Thirty, Molly’s Game, and Miss Sloane, put her in characters that never stop to react and smell the roses. That wears me out. Could you just slow down Jessica, so I can take this all in, please? You’re talking faster than I can think.

In Miss Sloane, Chastain portrays an impenetrable lobbyist. Nothing gets past this woman and despite her shortcomings, nothing will harm her either. Elizabeth Sloane will always be one step ahead of the game. This is a fierce chess player in the political arena. She’s omnipotent and admits to hardly ever sleeping. Maybe the pill popping helps with that. Like the Faye Dunaway character from Network, she also has no time for personal relationships or sensitive sex. So, she’s a high paying client for a male escort who will wait for her to come home to satisfy her fix.

Elizabeth is first employed with a wealthy private law firm who wants her to head up a bill in favor of the gun lobby. She declines, walks out the door with one long speech, a way over the top laugh (this is where there’s too much Jessica in my morning coffee) and over half her staff. She goes to the other side of the aisle to lobby aggressively against the gun bill.

From there it’s one aggressive maneuver after another and Elizabeth more than proves that she’s got the balls for this game. Only thing is, as Elizabeth proceeds to countermeasure and attack from her side, is she losing sight of the subject at play? Will her soul swim to the surface showing any sense of morality?

The film begins where Elizabeth is being questioned at a hearing headed by a state Senator (John Lithgow, always a pleasure to see). Then it moves on to show us how Elizabeth finds herself at that hearing.

Miss Sloane has no limits to what she’ll do to protect the integrity of a client’s argument for the bill even if it means embarrassing a traitorous teammate, putting another teammate in an unwelcome limelight of political journalism or maybe even employing a cockroach of the sort to use as a listening device. Miss Sloane won’t hesitate to take risks for the lobby she’s been hired to pursue, even if it risks someone’s life or their reputation.

A twist presents itself at the end and yeah, it could work assuming you believe Elizabeth Sloane, the brilliant lobbyist, can telegraph about fifty different actions that could take place amounting to that one moment. The math adds up, but were the numbers fudged to allow the arithmetic to work? That’s why a film like Miss Sloane is hard for me to swallow.

Does this woman have ESP? The final card she plays would require not only her own personal endurance, but that of a colleague as well. A lot of factors all have to be in sync to make this story work out the way it does. So my suspension of disbelief was really tested with this film.

I go back to Jessica Chastain. Zero Dark Thirty remains my favorite of hers. She was a great underdog against a male oriented governing body in the pursuit of Bin Laden. After that, Miss Sloane released a few years later and Chastain got bit by the Aaron Sorkin bug, I think. Endless talking works as an intellect that’s hard to challenge. Problem is, I’m the viewer and I’m wondering for the first thirty minutes what in the hell you’re talking about. Miss Sloane isn’t an Aaron Sorkin film, but Jessica Chastain will have you convinced she wants it to be.

Fortunately, writer Jonathan Perera with director John Madden ease up on the brakes allowing much more realistic and human characters to invade the film including Lithgow, Alison Pill and an especially riveting performance from Gugu Mbatha-Raw (recently seen by me with a subpar script called The Whole Truth) who becomes Elizabeth’s trusted sidekick both behind and in front of the cameras for political jockeying. This is an actress ready for some lead roles.

I described Miss Sloane as omnipotent earlier and that’s a problem for the first act of the film. This character never shuts up early on. There’s next to no impact on anyone around her. She just talks and talks and talks and she convinces me that she’s the smartest one in the room, but she also makes me want to turn the movie off. The film saves itself with the able supporting cast eventually.

To watch Miss Sloane is not to take any position on gun lobbying especially seriously. I’m not sure the filmmakers have a stance to play. I’m not sure the filmmakers know whether to even regard the titled character as a hero or villain. Actually, I just think the purpose of the film is to show corner cutting and how aggressive a made-up lobbyist can actually be, devoid of any determining factors. We are privileged to see how far a woman with stiletto heels, a cinched up red head ponytail and a tight business suit will go to win at any cost. It’s intriguing, but I guess I just felt unfulfilled by the end. It was all there. It just seemed to work itself all out too conveniently by the end. 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s