Monday, December 12, 2016

Miss Sloane


Starring: Jessica Chastain, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Mark Strong, Jake Lacey, Allison Pill, Sam Waterston, John Lithgow, Michael Stuhlbarg

Rated R for Language and Some Sexuality

There is something I find absolutely fascinating about a character who is simultaneously ruthless and Machiavellian.  "Miss Sloane" is about such a character.  Liz Sloane (Chastain), the most powerful lobbyist in Washington, she knows that in order to win, she must anticipate her opponent's moves and get there first.  But in such a high-stakes world where everything can be spun, distorted or manipulated, how can she do so without hurting her own cause?

If anyone needs to get legislation passed, they need Liz on their side.  She has all the connections, she knows all the loopholes, she could persuade Rick Perry to make a sequel to "An Inconvenient Truth."  She is the one to know.  Most importantly, she knows what it takes to win in this game, and will do whatever it takes to do so.  One day, Bob Sanford (Chuck Shamata) comes to her and asks for her and her team to help them defeat a new gun bill.  In no uncertain terms, she tells him to get lost, but her boss, George Dupont (Waterston), tells her that they're going to take him as a client.  So when Rodolfo Schmidt (Strong), the head of the non-profit who is going against the bill, asks her to switch sides, she accepts.  But her methods are unorthodox and far more extreme than Schmidt anticipated.  Interwoven are excerpts from the Senate hearing that she's hauled in front of to explain her as-yet-unknown activities.

This movie rests entirely on the shoulders of Jessica Chastain, and she nails it.  This is a powerhouse performance from one of our best young actresses.  Jessica Chastain, who often plays strong women (she was nominated for an Oscar for playing Maya in "Zero Dark Thirty," and will no doubt get another nod for her work here).  This is fearless, ferocious acting playing a character who has an insatiable desire to win.  This is her show, but like the best actors, she is very giving, allowing her co-stars to shine as well.

She's surrounded by an able supporting cast, including up-and-coming British actress Gugu Mbatha-Raw as her new right hand, the always reliable Mark Strong as her new boss, Jake Lacey as an escort who gets under her skin, and John Lithgow as the senator in charge of the hearing.  Sam Waterston plays his character as Jack McCoy's evil twin.

What's interesting about the film is that we are always left wondering Liz's ulterior motives.  She's smart, make that brilliant.  But things don't always turn out the way she anticipates.  Or do they?  Does what happens in the film happen randomly, or because she was counting on it?  And what about the collateral damage?  She is clever, but her actions have a cost.  Is she really sorry for her actions, or is she just playing the part to get people to do what she wants?  While the film's plot twists and turns are riveting, it's all the more fascinating because the audience is left wondering what she's really thinking and her ultimate plan is.  This of course leads to one hell of a plot twist that's as shocking as the one in "Seven" or "Rounding First."

So far the film hasn't done well at the box office, and that's a shame.  We need more movies like "Miss Sloane" to be made.  Smart, creative movies for adults.  Not every movie has to be geared towards the tweens.  A movie this intelligent, this propulsive, this timely, should not be ignored.

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