On its facade, Miss Sloane is about the sleazy nature of doing business in Washington. But behind it is an interesting commentary on feminism and the notion of “You’ve come a long way, baby.” It also features a blazing performance by Jessica Chastain, one of our finest actresses.
The subject is lobbying. A lobbyist is a person who, like a lawyer (I think most of them are) takes a client to try to influence lawmakers to give that client what they want. These lobbyists don’t usually care what their client wants, therefore lobbyists are also people who have no trouble sleeping at night. The infantile, very naive part of my brain wonders why there are lobbyists at all–don’t our representatives vote for what they believe in, reflecting their constituents’ will? Boy, am I stupid.
Chastain is a lobbyist and very good at her job. Her firm is being courted by what I presume is the NRA, but the initials are never spoken aloud. They are worried about a bill that would apply background checks to all sales, including within families, etc. (a bill like this just passed in Nevada, amazingly). They would like Chastain to go after the female voter and make guns seem more feminine. She laughs at them–she is personally for gun control. Sam Waterston, her boss, is angry (as he should be) and she is lured away by the firm represented by the Brady people. It turns out she has principles.
So there’s a lot of cross-talk about gun control, but this is only a smoke screen. The movie is really about Chastain and the special character in movies of the hard-driven career woman. She is the spiritual daughter of Faye Dunaway in Network, even to the point where she realizes she will never have a relationship or family, so gets her jollies with male escorts. She also sleeps as little as possible, getting through the day on uppers.
This got me to thinking–would this be the same movie with a male lead? Or would it have been a movie at all? The script is an original one by Jonathan Perera. I assume, given the title, that it was always about a woman. Some movies have changed the genders of the lead, but I think Perera, consciously or not, has written a parable about career women that once again shows the emptiness of the life of a woman who puts all her life into her career. It’s becoming kind of a cliche.
That being said, the film is okay without being great. It is built around a huge twist at the end that I won’t dare reveal but that makes you look back at the whole film in your head and isn’t entirely plausible. It is directed by John Madden, now out of the Exotic Marigold Hotel, with a breakneck intensity that could have had some moments of space–it’s hard to find room to breathe in its pacing.
But whatever plaudits this film deserves all belong to Chastain. She’s had a very busy career, and been in good movies and bad, and I haven’t seen all of them (I’d still like to catch up with her version of Strindberg’s Miss Julie) but she is in firm control here. Though the character is a cliche, she makes her real, and finds moments of authenticity that aren’t in the script.
Miss Sloane, if anything, will make you disgusted to be am American, and compel you to take a shower. Lobbyists, it is implied, are the ones that control the strings of government. They lie, cheat, and blackmail. All of that I believe.