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Review: Miss Sloane

Miss Sloane
12.07.2016
7 10

PLOT: A high-powered Washington D.C lobbyist (Jessica Chastain) finds herself in the cross-hairs of an investigation that threatens her career and liberty after taking on the pro-gun lobby.

REVIEW: Jessica Chastain can wheel-and-deal with the best of them. Watching her in action, within the first five minutes of MISS SLOANE, you can tell this is a tailor-made part, exploiting her charisma in a way few of her recent vehicles have managed. Often cast in-support of leading men, here Chastain is the whole show, and sure enough the titular character is the kind of role most actresses of her caliber would kill for. Naturally, she sinks her teeth into it with relish.

A rare non-genre effort for Luc Besson’s EuropaCorp, director John Madden, getting back into gritty fare after his two-film BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL break, wisely builds the movie around his star. There’s no showy direction of over-the-top set-pieces. Rather, the entire movie is devoted to exploring the complicated Sloane’s psychology. While not inherently likable in the way she devours subordinates (but also earns their loyalty) and her willingness to use illegal methods to win votes among her prey (including blackmail, surveillance and more), she’s at the very least someone who’s unwilling to bend if an issue rubs her the wrong way.

First seen as the top dog at a right-wing firm run by the paternal Sam Waterston and his oily underling (Michael Stuhlbarg), she jumps ship to a small boutique firm run by Mark Strong’s incorruptible Rodolfo Schmidt, when she’s asked to work for the gun lobby. What’s interesting here is that, in a more traditional film, Sloane would have some kind of personal motivation or tragedy driving her distaste for the gun lobby, but here it’s simply an issue she cares about, no further motivation needed. However, once she discovers a new colleague (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) is a survivor of gun violence, she doesn’t hesitate exploiting her pain to push her agenda.

Through it all, Madden keeps MISS SLOANE chugging-along at a solid pace. Despite running a lengthy 130 minutes, the films never feels indulgent and remains thoroughly compelling until a last minute twist makes the Sloane character somewhat more conventional than she initially seemed. This reeks of a commercial compromise or a desperate plea for awards consideration. The film was good enough up to this point that it didn’t need this final push.

Aside from the amazing Chastain, the rest of the cast is just as effective. Raw delivers another standout performance, and it’s truly bizarre she hasn’t become a full-fledged leading lady yet as she has charisma to burn. In supporting parts, John Lithgow and Mark Strong both get solid bits to chew-on, while Stuhlbarg excels as Sloane’s nemesis (although it would be nice to one day see him in a sympathetic part). Alison Pill is similarly good as Sloane’s former right-hand-woman, who stabs her in the back when the opportunity presents itself. Madden and writer Jonathan Perera also include an atypical b-story involving Sloane’s use of a gigolo (Jake Lacy) which is interesting, considering that movies about women in Hollywood almost always tack-on love interests rather than, more realistically, just having a character thrown in that Sloane likes to have sex with, and not much more.

Overall, MISS SLOANE suffers from a maudlin conclusion that spoon-feeds a resolution to the audience, but for ninety percent of the running time its an excellent, character-driven drama. I highly recommend it.

Source: JoBlo.com

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