Jessica Chastain gives a ferocious performance in the title role of John Madden’s Miss Sloane. However, one performance often isn’t enough to elevate the overall quality of a film. The best way to characterize this movie is that Miss Sloane is anchored by an “A” list actress saddled with a below-average narrative.
The film centers around the prowess of lobbyist Elizabeth Sloane (Jessica Chastain). Sloane knows how to play the game of politics and employs an array of ruthless tactics to get exactly what she wants every time. Her boss (Sam Waterson) brings her into a meeting with a powerful gun lobby that is hell-bent on defeating any measure that calls for regulatory background checks. Even Sloane can’t bring herself to take on this conservative viewpoint and decides to jump ship and starts working for the opposition.
What motivates Sloane? It certainly isn’t money as she goes from making mountains of cash working for the Pro-Gun Lobby to making next to nothing for an Anti-Gun Lobby that appears to be fighting a losing battle. This campaign doesn’t seem to be personal either as Sloane doesn’t put any value into personal relationships. The only thing that motivates her is winning. She will do whatever is necessary to whomever to achieve the ultimate goal of dominating her opponent (no matter the consequences). Chastain’s performance is what draws audiences in; it’s a shame the narrative isn’t nearly robust enough to keep audiences engaged.
Miss Sloane is Johnathan Perera’s first foray into script-writing, and that’s painfully obvious from the beginning of the film. Rather than spend his time developing a narrative that’s equally engaging and compelling, he overloaded his script with various tropes. What motivates Miss Sloane? Whatever, let’s just make it obvious that she hooked on drugs. Why she’s so focused on winning? Who cares, let’s just throw in a scene where she’s with a male prostitute. Why is guns the one issue which causes the most corrupt lobbyist in Washington to have a conscience suddenly? What does it matter, let’s just have a congressional hearing which is loosely connected to Sloane’s previous dealings on Capitol Hill?
Miss Sloane is the type of film that would have benefited from having a veteran scriptwriter at the helm rather than someone who’s first script inexplicably was purchased and fast tracked to production. I wonder how different this film might have been if Josh Singer and Tom McCarthy crafted this narrative. They both did a fantastic job allowing the corruption in the movie Spotlight to stand out rather than embellishing it. Their focus was on crafting well-rounded characters and stellar dialogue. The result was an intense film, with a stellar narrative, and performances that stand out. Miss Sloane has none of these.