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The term “lobbyist” is said to have originated during the presidency of Ulysses S. Grant. According to the legend, Grant referred to the petitioners who were constantly ambushing him with requests for support as “lobbyists” because they always ambushed him while he was attempting to relax with a brandy in the lobby of the Willard Hotel in Washington. This notion has been debunked by the DC Mythbusting Series, which discovered evidence that the term was in use as early as the 1600s (always with the same wheeler-dealer connotation). Whatever the circumstances may be, “lobbyists” are still active in our society. Who or what they represent is frequently shrouded in mystery, which makes them fertile ground for conspiracy theorists and authors of paranoid political thrillers. “Miss Sloane,” written and directed by John Madden, revolves around a single lobbyist named Elizabeth Sloane. She is a vicious, take-no-prisoners kind of person, and Academy Award nominee Jessica Chastain portrays her.
“Miss Sloane” follows the story of a woman who works for a conservative lobbying firm, but leaves her job after being asked by her scowling-eyebrowed boss (Sam Waterston) to support the powerful gun lobby in their opposition to a new gun law featuring regulatory checks on the purchase of firearms. The script for “Miss Sloane” was written by Jonathan Perera, who was writing it for the first time, and it shows. “Miss Sloane Sloane takes her entire team with her, with the exception of her devoted assistant Jane (Alison Pill), who decides to stay behind. They go to work for a ragtag low-rent lobbying outfit headed by Rodolfo Schmidt (Mark Strong), which is dedicated to pushing through that contentious gun bill. Sloane’s goal is to change the law so that she can keep her job.
It would not even begin to do justice to Miss Sloane’s reputation to call her a ruthless lobbyist. In the world of lobbyists, she is Keyser Soze. She is the Bobby Fischer of lobbyists, competing against children playing checkers at the elementary school level. She is every mastermind serial killer from “Criminal Minds,” psychopaths who have the wherewithal to pepper their crime scenes with 75 red herrings, confusing organizations that are following the blood trail. The spectacle of a lone wolf outsmarting the fat cats in Washington is satisfying, and the character of Miss Sloane is given fascinating and bizarre depths (unexplained for the most part, which is a welcome change), but “Miss Sloane” plays like a naive fantasy despite these positive aspects (perhaps its release date has something to do with that).
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There is no information available regarding Miss Sloane’s political beliefs. She is neither an idealist nor an activist in any sense of the word. She does not have any beliefs other than the importance of winning (a philosophy she verbalizes multiple times throughout, including in the direct-address opening scene). She will not stop at anything in her pursuit of victory. Her coworkers are used, lied to, and betrayed in the process. She throws them under the bus. This new perspective on the plot breathes new life into “Miss Sloane,” transforming the narrative into more of a character study than anything else. The most interesting part of the movie is undoubtedly the focus on the various characters.
Miss Sloane Quiz
Her private life does not appear to exist. She is suspected to be taking speed in the shadows, given that she never appears to sleep. She struggles to communicate effectively with people on a daily basis. Her friendship with Esme Manucharian, a subordinate character played by Gugu Mbatha-Raw (who is excellent), has a disturbing power imbalance from the very beginning. There are a lot of shots—probably too many—of people looking at each other and asking, “Is this lady for real?” We understand what you’re trying to say; she’s creative, she’s brilliant, and she’s terrifying. At one point, Schmidt, who had recruited her away from her previous employer, asks her straight out: “Have you ever been considered normal? Tell me about yourself when you were younger.”
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The action shifts back and forth between the Senate hearings that are investigating Miss Sloane’s unconventional and possibly illegal dealings, and the occurrences that led up to her being in that position. It is abundantly clear just how difficult it is to pull off dialogue in the style of Aaron Sorkin, such as the rat-a-tat-tat of “The West Wing” or “The Social Network,” featuring people who are entirely fluent in complex “insider” language. This is made abundantly clear by the awkward script written by Perera. It is difficult to write, and it is difficult for actors to deliver what has been written. The dialogue in “Miss Sloane” is extremely wooden (“My bank account and liberal conscience won’t justify owning a car”), particularly in the group scenes, where the “banter” never lifts off the page. This is especially noticeable in the scenes where the characters are interacting with each other.
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Chastain is a naturally emotional actress; in her nearly wordless performance in “The Tree of Life,” she is so alive onscreen that you can practically see the pulse beating in her wrists. Chastain possesses a strong talent for acting. That does not describe Miss Sloane’s character at all. With her ice-white skin, bright red lips, and dizzyingly high heels, Chastain is a sight to behold and a pleasure for the eyes. Madden and cinematographer Sebastian Blenkov, fresh off their work on “Men & Chicken,” do right by their star by lighting her and framing her in the most dramatic way possible, reveling in her coloring and her striking silhouette, and getting as close as possible to her in order to examine the flashes of expression in this peculiar character’s eyes. However, she plays the part of Miss Sloane so well that it almost seems like a costume to her. Chastain’s voice in this role has a flatline quality that is not heard in any of her other performances. This makes the dialogue sound even more over-written because there is no range and no prosody in the performance.
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Scenes in which Miss Sloane is by herself are the ones in which “Miss Sloane” shines the brightest (not coincidentally, the scenes with very little dialogue). The dynamic between Miss Sloane and Esme is very interesting; there is a lot of dramatic tension in the recurring scenes in which they try to figure each other out and form a suspicious alliance. Jake Lacy, who continues to amaze with the variety of roles he plays, is captivating as the only character who treats Miss Sloane like a human being. In a beautiful bit of irony, he is also one of the only characters in the entire film with a moral compass. Jake Lacy continues to surprise with his diversity of character roles. Their scenes together are extremely well-played and well-written, which highlights the weaknesses that are present in other parts of the script.
The film is not to blame for the most significant issue. Even with its ends-justify-the-means cynicism and its vision of life on The Hill as a ruthless battle to win at all costs, “Miss Sloane” feels almost quaint now, given that it opens two weeks after the ugliest election in the history of the United States (although the election of 1800 would give it—and any other—a run for its money in that regard). The election of 1800 would give it—and any other election—a run for its The movie is not so much tone-deaf as it is old-fashioned, having emerged from a more innocent time (let’s say, three weeks ago), when “politics as usual” actually had some meaning.