wed 16/08/2017

Miss Sloane review - Jessica Chastain lobbies hard for your vote | reviews, news & interviews

Miss Sloane review - Jessica Chastain lobbies hard for your vote

Miss Sloane review - Jessica Chastain lobbies hard for your vote

The gun lobby never loses. But it's never had an opponent like this

'I guess I'm just a piece of work': Jessica Chastain as Miss Sloane

For a demoralising period towards the start of Miss Sloane, it looks as if we’re in for a high-octane thriller about palm oil. That’s right, palm oil. Everything you never wanted to know about the ethics and economics of the palm oil market is splurged in frenetic, rat-a-tat, overlapping, school-of-Sorkin dialogue. After 10 minutes your ears need a rest on a park bench.

Elizabeth Sloane (Jessica Chastain) is a hotshot lobbyist. Her peerless reputation in DC is for not having a moral bone in her body - she’s a gold medallist in ethical limbo, someone says. She’s the poster child for the most morally bankrupt profession since faith healing, says someone else. But then her boss in Washington’s biggest lobbying firm (Sam Waterston) offers her an account working to promote guns as “tools of female empowerment”. The plan is to thwart a bill seeking to implement minor checks on potential gun-owners. Sloane’s job is to lobby congressmen to vote against the bill.

Miss Sloane, Alison PillMuch to her boss’s surprise, Sloane discovers a red line, jumps ship for a firm of bleeding-heart liberals to work on getting the bill passed into law. “The fuck is this? Jerry Maguire?” asks a colleague as her team defects with her, even though she treats them like an impatient teacher. Only her nerdy protegée (Alison Pill, pictured above) refuses to follow.

We know this is going to go badly. When we first encounter her Miss Sloane is practising pleading the Fifth at a senate hearing (pictured below) - something to do with palm oil. It gradually emerges that, though she’s ostensibly swapped sides to join the angels, her tactics for staying one step ahead of her opponents and entrapping wavering politicians includes bugging and wiretapping.Miss SloaneJonathan Perera’s intensely researched debut script argues that this is how a woman must be to thrive in the backstabbers’ convention that is Capitol Hill. “The only thing you’re missing is a dick,” Sloane is told. She’s ruthless, inscrutable, repressed. When she enlists a woman to her team who has personal experience of gun crime (played by Gugu Mbatha-Raw, pictured below with Chastain) she has no compunction about betraying her trust live on national television. “Were you ever normal as a child?” asks her increasingly baffled boss (Mark Strong). “I guess I’m just a piece of work,” she says.

She certainly dresses that way. Sloane’s wardrobe features a monochrome palette of tight black power suits and stilettos topped off with flame-red lipstick to match her incandescent hair. It’s a huge shock when she throws on something grey.  “I work on behalf of causes I believe in,” she says. “That’s how I sleep at night.” Only she doesn’t sleep much. She eats alone at the same Chinese diner, is addicted to pills, has no social life. Her attorney despises her. “Why don’t you quit?” her boss asks as the law closes in. “And do what?” She relieves stress by hiring a ripped male escort (Jake Lacy, who plays the dorky American airman Bill Nighy teaches to act in Their Finest). He’s the only sweetie in the entire film, and when he pries Sloane even argues with him.

Miss Sloane, Gugu Mbatha-RawIt’s about time Hollywood made a film about gun control, if only to counterbalance its more infantile output which fetishises weaponry. Before its US release the gun lobby certainly attacked Miss Sloane on social media and impacted negatively on its box office (although the bigger downer was Trump’s victory three days earlier). As history suggests, the US gun lobby never loses. Perhaps it has never faced a ball-breaker like Elizabeth Sloane before.

British director John Madden, given grittier material to work with than Shakespeare in Love or Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, puts the entire machinery of the film at the service of Chastain, who has a riot playing a termagant slowly disinterring her deeply buried moral core. Elizabeth Sloane is a close cousin of the righteous obsessive spook she played in Zero Dark Thirty, and overwhelmingly the main reason to wade through dense thickets of overwrought dialogue, although John Lithgow is also good value as an old-school senator, and there’s a satisfying if regrettably fantastical twist withheld to the very end. This Miss deserves to be a hit.

@JasperRees

Sloane’s wardrobe features a monochrome palette of tight black power suits and stilettos topped off with flame-red lipstick to match her incandescent hair

rating

Editor Rating: 
4
Average: 4 (1 vote)

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