Miss Sloane gives viewers a chance to root for the bad guy (review)

misssloane_trailer

Hollywood loves its liberal causes. But more often than not, the story is told from the point of view of the “good guys.” The age old tale about the principled defender of the people who fights the good fight with an impassioned speech and boundless enthusiasm. From Mr. Smith Goes to Washington to The American President, Hollywood always puts its defenders of liberalism on a pedestal. Which is part of what makes Jessica Chastain’s latest starring vehicle Miss Sloane so refreshing. In this film, Chastain takes on a role that could ostensibly be described as a villain, yet we can’t help but root for her the whole time.

Chastain plays Elizabeth Sloane, a high-powered DC lobbyist who has made a career out of peddling her influence in Washington at the behest of her deep pocketed clients. Her “by any means necessary” approach to lobbying requires maneuvering in some ethical gray areas, which she gets away with due to her adeptness at “covering her ass.” After her bosses ask her to apply her unique skills to help the gun lobby defeat a bill that would increase background checks on firearms, Sloane decides to instead take an offer by a competing firm that is trying to get the bill passed.

Her motives for taking the other side remain unclear, but her methods are laid out in chillingly effective fashion by director John Madden. From putting surveillance on her opponents to betraying her own team members to advance her agenda, Sloane does not shy away from doing whatever it takes to win. This ruthless ethos is counterbalanced by her opponents in the gun lobby who are working just as duplicitously to win. It’s a classic battle between liberal gun control lobbyists on the left and 2nd amendment constitutionalists on the right. Only, in this case, there are no good guys. And no one’s hands are fully clean.

Chastain is remarkable as Sloane, balancing equal parts cold calculation and steely determination, while still giving us brief glimpses at a more vulnerable side that she strives to keep hidden. Supporting turns by Sam Waterston as Sloane’s former boss, and Gugu-Mbatha Raw as Sloane’s subordinate with a secret are also a delight.

Miss Sloane is not without its faults. The film, though by no means meant to be a non-fiction account of the lobbying process, utilizes a few pretty unbelievable plot contrivances to develop conflicts to resolve. In one scene, Raw’s character is accosted by an armed gunman, only to be saved by a law abiding citizen who just so happened to be carrying a legal firearm. “It’s too good to be true,” says a member of the gun lobby. Yes…yes it is. But if you’re willing to overlook the story beats that stretch, if not break, the bonds of reality, there is a lot to enjoy about the film. The brisk pacing and rat-a-tat Sorkinesque dialogue is gripping, and the double and triple crosses will likely keep audiences guessing until the very end.

Much like the illustrious anti-heroes of television (Heisenberg, Draper, and Soprano to name just a few), Miss Sloane reminds us of just how much fun it is to root for the bad guy. Especially when she’s on your side.

Rating: 4/5 atoms

NR 4 Atoms - B

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