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Miss Sloane – Movie Review

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Miss Sloane – Movie Review

Rating: B- (Okay)

Trailer/Thumbnail Courtesy VVS Films

Lobbyists aren’t often given films to lead, mostly because it’s tricky to find a protagonist one can root for. These are, after all, the people who influence decisions in Washington, for better or for worse. Miss Sloane does not hide the fact it’s a cutthroat business, although the pace is certainly on the sluggish side. This mostly exists as a star vehicle for Jessica Chastain, who commands the screen with the tough titular character. However, the script eventually loses focus and the main subject matter gets lost in a complicated plot. One can also envision this working better as a weekly television series, rather than as a feature film.

John Madden, a director more commonly known for historical dramas and lightweight comedies, might not have been the strongest fit for this material. He’s a competent director, but Miss Sloane is a film in need of more suspense and intrigue. At first, the film seeks to look at the gun control debate. This is a controversial topic and one that can lead to intense drama, especially with the real world debates happening on the news every day. The strongest scene in Miss Sloane arrives when the protagonist finds herself debating a former colleague on television on the topic of gun control. It’s an intriguing sequence that shows why this discussion continues to create passionate responses.

Suddenly, the film changes topic as Sloane ends up in the middle of an unrelated trial, which has nothing to do with gun control. The film’s central agenda appears to be discarded for a new storyline and arc. It only makes the build-up to the third act even more disappointing. There is some decent drama to be found earlier on, especially involving Gugu Mbatha-Raw as a school shooting survivor, but it dissipates near the end. It’s a credit to Jessica Chastain’s screen presence that she manages to keep our attention even as the pace slogs. It’s her usual strong work and one can see why her participation got the project moving towards the production stage.

First-time screenwriter Jonathan Perera is almost certainly influenced by Aaron Sorkin’s style of fast-paced dialogue and quippy remarks. Again, Chastain handles the dialogue with the proper punch and Alison Pill is also welcome as a rival lobbyist with her own plans. Michael Stuhlbarg mostly shouts through his performance, but he makes a memorable impact, nonetheless, as underwritten as his character is. The young assistant lobbyists helping Sloane seem to merge together as they all have the same cadences of speaking. Perera, who has no previous film credits, certainly has great promise as a writer. He has the mechanics down and he certainly knows his way around heavy expositionary scenes.

Miss Sloane has good intentions and one can see the slow burn potential in its premise, but it just misses the boat. This really is Jessica Chastain’s show and she makes the most, despite the flimsy direction. There’s a crackling drama underneath all this and a powerful commentary on the role lobbyists play in how senators decide upon controversial laws. As stated earlier, one can easily a television series with this character ala House of Cards and it feels like the filmmakers were trying to pack a lot of story into this little over two hour film. That would be a fitting future for Miss Sloane, were this to become a success.

 

Stefan Ellison
THE SCENE


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