Jessica Chastain stars in the title role as a Washington, D.C. lobbyist. The movie did quite poorly when it opened a week ago, perhaps done in in part by politically divisive advertising ("The movie the NRA doesn't want you to see!"). I was drawn to it nonetheless by the trailer with Chastain delivering an enigmatic soliloquy; I like a political thriller every now and then and thought I'd give it a try. As it turns out, MISS SLOANE was both rather silly and highly entertaining.
Chastain's Elizabeth Sloane initially works for George Dupont (Sam Waterston) at a lobbying firm working with a gun rights group to put forward a campaign featuring women who have defended themselves using guns.
Sloan switches over to a smaller firm run by Rodolfo Schmidt (Mark Strong), which is attempting to rally votes for a gun registration measure.
Although the film rehashes the same pro and con gun control arguments we've all heard a million times before, to its credit the movie manages to work up a fair amount of suspense over a fairly mundane topic, securing votes for a single bill. It's especially Chastain's compelling performance as the Machiavellian Sloane which makes the film quite fun to watch, regardless of where one comes down on the politics of the piece.
Supposedly the film was backed by the gun control lobby, but ironically I felt the movie ultimately came off as pro 2nd Amendment, or ambiguous at most. In fact, it was interesting that the movie's gun control "champion" is an amoral, self-centered woman who lives on amphetamines and whose only personal relationship is with a paid male escort; she cares about the power game but the issue, not so much. Not exactly an admirable standard bearer for the cause.
In fact, if the film had a message, it had nothing to do with guns, but the fact that there are unethical people on both sides of the aisle in Washington. Which will surprise no one.
Chastain's Sloane is all well-dressed, icy self-control on the outside, anxious, falling-apart pill popper on the inside, who doesn't let anyone get close, paying for companionship. Despite her failings, she's a brilliant strategic thinker who advocates the importance of having a trump card to play after the other side has played theirs -- and she certainly drops a doozy in the climactic Congressional hearing.
Though the film ultimately seems on the pointless side, I had quite a good time watching it, perhaps more than I expected. Those looking for a soapy political suspense film with a couple nice twists and turns would probably find it enjoyable as well. To the movie's credit, it felt shorter than its 132 minutes.
Mark Strong is enjoyable as Sloan's more ethical new boss; I liked him in part as at times he seemed to be channeling Stanley Tucci, a favorite of mine. The cast also includes John Lithgow, Alison Pill, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Jake Lacy, Michael Stuhlbarg, David Wilson Barnes, and Meghann Fahy. A couple familiar faces from THE GOOD WIFE, Christine Baranski and Dylan Baker, turn up briefly.
MISS SLOANE was directed by John Madden and filmed by Sebastian Blenkov.
Parental Advisory: MISS SLOANE is rated R for language and a brief bedroom scene.
Coming soon: A review of the new musical LA LA LAND (2016).