Directed by John Madden, who has an estimable political-correct streak of making movies with remarkable female roles in the lead, from MRS. BROWN (1997), SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE (1998) to THE BEST EXOTIC MARIGOLD HOTEL franchise,MISS SLOANE is no exception.
The fearless Jessica Chastain stars as our titular American lobbyist, in the opening shot, she directly addresses to us a lobbyist’s golden rule with a dead-center fourth-wall-breaking close-up: always to outmaneuver your opponent, and keeping your trump card to have the last laugh, which is exactly what happens in this sleekly choreographed political drama recounts Miss Elizabeth Sloane and her co.’s upward battle of advocating a gun-control bill against her nefarious adversaries.
The film starts in medias res, Elizabeth is under questioning at a congressional hearing led by Senator Ronald Sperling (Lithgow), to investigate her possible infringement while she was working in her former company, which currently is fully behind the obstruction of the said bill. Carried with a vibrant but intensely hectic tempo, the plot is dialogue-driven and we are granted a coup d'œil of this cut-throat line-of-work of lobbyist, and Elizabeth is the crème-de-la-crème of the crop, but to what cost? She is a prototypical workaholic, a chronic insomniac and inveterately dependent on medication, everyday she dines at the same Chinese restaurant just because it never closes, it goes without saying that she is single and only resorts to escort service to physically de-pressurize herself on a regular basis. Actually the film reveals nothing about her background, her family or her past, virtually she is a working robot, but a hyper-smart one.
But that is not to say her working method is not unethical, she is a proficient anticipator, who can plan her moves much in advance, and boy, she takes no prisoners with her. A key pawn is her colleague Esme Manucharian (Mbatha-Raw), who is a survivor of a gun massacre when she was a high-schooler and is still in shell-shock, such a great resource at hand, Elizabeth will not leave that untapped, only its imperilment blindsides her and compels she to rethink her strategy. Jumping back and forth in its time-line, throwing shades at the goings-on plotting to sabotage the beneficial bill (with a self-defeating twist of life being saved from the gun point by a self-armed vigilante, yet why no one pays attention to the gun procured by the delirious killer-to-be? That is the crux in question!),MISS SLOANE prepares us with a consequential trump card which will leave audience both stunned and suspicious, for one thing, it might justify Elizabeth’s actions with her over-contrived martyrization, but when one thinks back, it is just not practical because the“earthquake” doesn’t necessarily need to be timed in that particular moment, Elizabeth can use it more wisely and realistically, to save all the drama and playing dumb all along the line, but as an info-taiment, Madden will not risk to downplay that arousing topsy-turvy uproar. Sensibly, it angles more at the pandemic rotten corruption than its token target of gun control, since after all, it is also monetary interest playing the crucial role in its execution. (the point is never about freedom or right, gun is such a highly profitable business for the country, it boils down to a choice between economy and individual life, and at our own peril, the latter can be regretfully relinquished.)
For all its foibles: over-contrivance, one-noted characterization of its antagonists and most supporting roles, there is no denying that Ms. Chastain is all fired up in a tailor-made role and she is absolutely barnstorming and uncompromising in bringing to the fore of a severely flawed human being with flesh and blood, beautifully transfigures the sensation-seeking narrative arc and winds up a full-fledged anatomy of a complex character study with hard-earned credit, this is truly a textbook example of how a competent thespian can bail out a film from descending into the limbo of mediocrity out of her own commitment, acumen and faculty, she is such a godsend to the film industry, the fact that she is still waiting for her first naked golden statue is simply beyond belief.
referential points: Madden’s MRS BROWN (1997, 6.4/10), SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE (1998, 7.8/10);Cameron Crowe’s JERRY MAGUIRE (1996, 7.2/10).