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Review: ‘Miss Sloane’ is unapologetic about her methods or gender Special

Posted Dec 10, 2016 by Sarah Gopaul
‘Miss Sloane’ is a forceful film about a notorious lobbyist who decides to use all her underhanded tactics to petition for gun control.
Jessica Chastain stars in  Miss Sloane
Jessica Chastain stars in 'Miss Sloane'
VVS Films
Lobbying is a way of life on Capitol Hill, even if most would prefer not to acknowledge it. It should also come as no surprise that the most powerful lobbyists — i.e. the ones with the most money — represent some of the largest industries, including guns, oil, sugar and formerly tobacco. Though they’re prohibited from “buying” a senator’s vote, they’ve spent decades perfecting the workarounds that allow them to “earn” that allegiance. Miss Sloane is about a woman who decides to take those tactics and fight on behalf of the little guys.
Elizabeth Sloane (Jessica Chastain) built a reputation around being one of the best lobbyists, which can be largely attributed to her calculating tactics and thorough knowledge of how to manipulate the system. However, when the gun industry tries to recruit her services to block a bill that would require additional background checks and possibly lower rates of gun violence in America, she refuses. In fact, she decides to lend her expertise to the opposition in an attempt to ensure the bill passes. Consequently, this all unfolds in the backdrop of a congressional hearing investigating the potential illegality of “Miss Sloane’s” methods.
It’s not often women are cast in such unapologetic roles; particularly when the character is simply a shrewd businessperson who knows how to play the game well. We’ve seen the male version of Elizabeth countless times in a variety of narratives, but this is a rare occasion when audiences are provided a female version of the same character without compromises — she’s not a struggling mom; she doesn’t rely on her sexuality to win; she doesn’t fall in love with a colleague; nor does she allow her emotions to guide her decision-making. She is just one of the best lobbyists in the field and she likes to win.
Even when Hollywood tradition tells viewers she’s going to finally breakdown and reveal the emotional drive that everyone assumes must be lurking below the surface, she continues to exhibit exceptional strength and stays true to herself. During a Q&A at an advanced screening in Toronto, both Chastain and director John Madden explained how they were committed to Elizabeth’s retention of these qualities throughout the narrative. Madden also confirmed the character was always intended to be a woman and not just an alternative casting choice — he always envisioned Chastain in the role.
Chastain is very severe in this role. Her character rarely smiles unless she’s just successfully outmanoeuvred her rivals. Her strategies don’t take into account people’s feelings nor does she apologize for it. This may be the most mature role of Chastain’s career thus far. And it doesn’t hurt that she’s surrounded by a group of excellent actors, including Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Alison Pill, Mark Strong, John Lithgow, Sam Waterston and Jake Lacy. Part thriller, part political drama, it’s necessary for everyone involved to be passionate about their respective roles, regardless of which side of the story they’re on and this ensemble makes significant contributions to making this film gripping and believable.
More gun control has been a hot topic of recent years and this film is clearly on the pro side of the debate, skilfully laying out the arguments for its adoption and negating the ones against. The combination of pitting Elizabeth’s cutthroat techniques against the righteous employees of the boutique firm she joins and the progression of the hearing meant to nullify her efforts makes for a fascinating film with never a dull moment.
Director: John Madden
Starring: Jessica Chastain, Mark Strong and Gugu Mbatha-Raw