Mrinalini Basu ’19 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
Miss Sloane follows Elizabeth Sloane (Jessica Chastain), a renowned lobbyist in Washington, D.C. and the epitome of an anti-hero. The film is set into motion with Sloane turning down a gun lobby’s offer as she moves to the opposition. This is portrayed as career suicide and marks the introduction to the movie’s main theme: surprise. The film’s entire narrative structure is centered around surprising the opposition, as well as the audience. This is one of the ways in which the film falls short. It tries to shock the audience into enjoyment but is so inherently formulaic in its approach that the audience is just bored and confused by the end of it.
The film is the first screenplay by Jonathan Perera, and it definitely shows. It tries to be the type of hard-hitting political thriller that has become the norm since Aaron Sorkin’s work first graced the screen, with the wit and intelligence seen in The Big Short. The film, ultimately, tried to be too many things at once, distracting the audience with its tonal shifts.
The film starts slow, opening with a close-up shot on Sloane as she explains the importance of being a step ahead. The close-up lingers a little too long, not breaking when other voices are heard and introduces the first little bits of confusion into the air. The shot ends towards the end of her monologue and so begins the story. It is revealed that she is on trial for illegally bribing politicians to pass what is referred to as the “Nutella tax.” The amount of the time spent explaining this entire case is quite disproportionate to its greater relevance. In the beginning, the plot drags on, introducing Sloane’s almost abusive relationship with her underlings and showing her resolve as a leading figure in her field and as a woman.
The film picks up once Sloane meets Rodolfo Schmidt (Mark Strong), thereby joining her firm’s opposition and embarking upon the greatest challenge of her career. Twist after twist, the plot becomes more and more convoluted, introducing a plethora of side characters that act as red herrings to the plot—though what is perhaps most frustrating is how completely pointless the character Forde (Jake Lacy) is to the greater narrative.
The writing is complex; however, the dialogue feels forced at times with everyone trying too hard to sound both intelligent and nonchalant. This, coupled with the lack of shot variety, adds nothing for the audience and makes it very difficult to suspend disbelief.
The film is, however, redeemed by two performances. The first is that of Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Esme Manucharian, a passionate warrior in the fight for increased gun control. Sloane’s slow manipulation of Esme is both masterful and shocking in its subtlety and Mbatha-Raw’s beautiful performance as an anonymous victim of gun violence helps greatly to increase the moral ambiguity that Sloane holds. She is, perhaps, the most empathetic character in the film and her portrayal as both a strong and broken woman is incredible..
The chemistry and ease between Manucharian and Sloane can be equally attributed to Chastain’s incredible performance as a strong, stoic, and powerful woman. She beautifully encapsulates the isolation the character feels and her refusal to let anyone get close to her. The audience is consistently torn between wanting her to succeed and hating her choices, weaved into a complex and emotional female protagonist that has been lacking in films of this nature in the past.
Ultimately, though the concept of Miss Sloane is incredible, too many aspects fall short. The narrative is too complex and the direction falls incredibly flat. There is too much being told to the audience, and not enough scope left for the build of sympathy and empathy. The supporting cast is amazing and Chastain’s performance is as fantastic as usual; however, this is not enough to hold the film up, and the film’s reach far outspanned the grasp.
Overall Grade: B-
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