My apologies in advance.
I’d like to think I have enough influence to motivate one or two of you out there to see “Miss Sloane” based on those three and a half stars alongside this review. But if you find it lurid, cheesy, melodramatic and sometimes a real howl: I’m sorry about that.
Ah, strike that part about being sorry. I’m going to wear my recommendation for “Miss Sloane” like a badge, because I’m a sucker for political thrillers from “The Day of the Jackal” to “The Parallax View” to “Three Days of the Condor’ to “Absolute Power” to “Enemy of the State” to “The Interpreter.” And while “Miss Sloane” is by no means even a minor classic of the genre, it’s fantastic, wall-to-wall entertainment, brimming with movie-movie lines such as, “You just blew this whole thing wide open!” and, “You’re a piece of work, Elizabeth!” and, “Start an inquisition,” and “They will throw you in jail for contempt of Congress” and yes, “We have to make it personal.”
Jessica Chastain could be time-dropped into any year in the history of movies dating back to the Silent Era and she would be a Movie Star.
Dressed to the nines in Ice Queen fashion, Chastain delivers a big, bold, sexy, smart, screen-grab of a performance as one Elizabeth Sloane, a powerful and feared Capitol Hill lobbyist who will cut you to ribbons if you get in the way of her one and only mission: to serve the client’s mission, whether it’s getting someone elected or pushing a bill through Congress or destroying an opponent.
Yes, this is a big-time movie about a lobbyist. I’m thinking if you took a survey of moviegoers, they might find such professions as “hit man” and “evil alien out to destroy Earth” more compelling and perhaps even more sympathetic professions than “Washington lobbyist.”
We first see Elizabeth in medium close-up (the stunning Chastain has rarely looked more beautiful), as she outlines her strategy for winning, which includes playing “the Trump card” (Real-World Relevant Play on Words alert!) at just the right moment.
The camera pulls back and the context unfolds. Turns out Elizabeth is about to face a Senate ethics committee, and her frustrated lawyer is trying to persuade her to say nothing but, “On the advice of counsel, I choose to exercise my rights under the Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution …”
Cue the extended flashback, and we learn how Elizabeth placed herself in that hornet’s next.
Elizabeth and her team of Millennial Go-Getters are working for the most powerful lobbying firm in Washington when the big boss, George Dupont (who else but Sam Waterston), enlists her to close a deal to get the business of the old-school right-winger Bob Sanford (Chuck Shamata), who is out to kill a moderate gun control measure that wouldn’t infringe on basic Second Amendment rights but would merely install some common-sense vetting measures.
Sanford’s pitch is so oily and cynical, so condescending, Elizabeth literally laughs in his face.
In a perfectly timed move, Rodolfo Schmidt (Mark Strong), the idealistic head of a small, issues-driven, ethically conscious lobbying firm, recruits Elizabeth to join his team and work AGAINST the gun lobby — and she accepts, taking some of her team with her.
Elizabeth pops pills, finds it impossible to sleep, berates her staff, manipulates the news cycle and oh yeah works out her aggressions and pent-up energy by sleeping with a male prostitute (Jake Lacy). Meanwhile, Dupont and his pit-bull associate (Michael Stuhlbarg) will stop at nothing to destroy Elizabeth, personally and professionally.
The talented young actress Gugu Mbatha-Raw delivers transcendent work as a young associate at the boutique firm who has a deeply personal connection to the issue of gun violence. John Lithgow is a hoot as a powerful senator who leads the charge against Elizabeth, at the behest of the powerful lobbying firm that owns his career.
If screenwriter Jonny Perera isn’t a fan of Aaron Sorkin, I’d be shocked. His dense, witty and, yes, sometimes didactic script is wicked smart and chock full of semi-plausible (at best) plot developments. (I thought one particular “reveal” was telegraphed a half-hour in advance, but it was still great fun when the twist was served up.)
Director John Madden (“Shakespeare in Love,” the “Exotic Marigold Hotel” movies) expertly juggles the various subplots while never losing his main focus, which is to showcase Jessica Chastain’s nearly infinite palette of acting shades. “Miss Sloane” is of course a timely film, but it offers no great insights into the machinations of Beltway insider dirty dealings.
It’s a big juicy popcorn movie thriller, is what it is.
EuropaCorp presents a film directed by John Madden and written by Jonny Perera. Rated R (for language and some sexuality). Running time: 132 minutes. Opens Friday at local theaters.