After what feels like five minutes after watching Jessica Chastain in The Zookeeper’s Wife, here I am returned to the same theatre to see her in another release. Pulling an Amy Adams of her very own (both Nocturnal Animals and Arrival came out in quick succession), I wasn’t too mad about it, as I have recently redkindled a love for Chastain that has laid dormant since the likes of The Help and A Most Violent Year. Miss Sloane promised to give me a very different performance from the quaint melodrama of The Zookeeper’s Wife, and I was excited to see what the picture had in store.
The film tells the story of a Elizabeth Sloane (Jessica Chastain), a cutthroat lobbyist in Washington D.C. who leaves her job with an established firm to fight a pro-gun bill with a smaller organisation. With a moral compass that swings more than the sixties, Miss Sloane brings a back of ethically debatable tricks with her in the fight to attain the right amount of senators, but in her controversial career move, she also leaves a team of disgruntled ex-colleagues who set out to destroy but her career and her life. The narrative, for want of a better description, feels like a combination of The Newsroom and the The West Wing on steroids, and being a huge fan of both those shows, it’s safe to say that I lapped up every single exaggerated second. Miss Sloane weaves a tale of political plotting, tricking and backstabbing that seems oddly poignant in today’s current climate, no matter how farfetched some of the details might be, and when I say farfetched, I’m talking remote controllable cockroaches with microphones. I have no doubt that a person better versed in the everyday goings on of Washington D.C. lobbying might have some more critical things to say about the credibility of unfolding events, but from a purely entertainment based viewpoint, the intrigue is delicious, the plot twists are well executed and the stakes remain high throughout, making for a tense and satisfying two hours of highly stylised political drama.
It is both refreshing and exciting to see a fast paced, heightened yet intelligent political drama like this being fronted by a strong woman and filled with further strong supporting female performances. Though the titular Miss Sloane is far from a traditional heroine, or even an archetypal anti-hero, there is just something about the strong feminine presences combined with the masculine feel of the political environment that makes for truly captivating and enthralling tension and drama, from my personal female viewer perspective, at least. The film does a great job of sticking firmly to its cat and mouse political agenda whilst at the same time bringing in additional themes such as addiction, sexuality, mental health, many different aspects of a character that can often by judged differently depending on gender. Ultimately, if you love the engaging politics of The West Wing and the character connections and sharp wit of The Newsroom, then Miss Sloane is going to go down a real treat.
As protagonist Elizabeth Sloane, Jessica Chastain is an absolute powerhouse of stoic, seductive charisma. Miss Sloane is a complicated, guarded character, and Chastain’s immediate real life likability plays at odds with her frosty exterior here to create one of the most memorable original strong female characters in recent years. We see Miss Sloane at her ice queen best and her vulnerable worst, and Chastain remains in control of the character at all times. Despite her many on screen misdeeds, the actress vitally maintains a connection with the audience that stops them from fully cutting ties before the film’s extravagant conclusion. It’s taken her a while, but it really feels like Jessica Chastain is finally starting to make the impact that she threatened to back in the early 2010s.
There is no doubt that the film lives and dies by its leading performance, but thanks to the stellar example set by Chastain, various supporting roles by the likes of Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Michael Stuhlbarg, Alison Pill, John Lithgow and Sam Waterston are also given the chance to shine. Alison Pill in particular as Elizabeth’s old assistant Jane and Sam Waterston as her former boss George Dupont resurrect some of their best political character work from The Newsroom to incredibly enjoyable effect.
Overall, Miss Sloane is a complete treat, something of a hidden in gem in my mind having heard very little hype about it despite a thoroughly deserved Golden Globe nomination for Jessica Chastain. A meaty political thriller with more then an edge of hyperbole that turns potentially dry subject matter in to a chaotic and exciting roller coaster ride. You will come for the prospect of watching a terrific leading performance (which you absolutely get), but will stay for the well rounded, deliciously heightened, satisfyingly elusive story that proves to be much more enjoyable than one might anticipate. I’m not saying it’s particularly realistic or even wholly sensible, but there is no denying that its robust, unapologetic train of dramatic twists and turns is a thrill to watch unfold. Highly recommended!