Editor’s Notes: Miss Sloane will be out on in its respective home video format March 21st.
Miss Sloane (20th Century-Fox) of the title is Elizabeth Sloane (Jessica Chastain, The Help), an intelligent ice queen of a Capitol Hill lobbyist whose entire life is her work. She is self-assured, determined, focused, and goal oriented, qualities considered admirable and enviable in a man but rub many the wrong way in a woman. Working in a male-dominated field, Elizabeth has proven herself time and again by doing what it takes to win over legislators to her clients’ causes.
As the film opens, she is about to appear before a hearing chaired by Congressman Ron M. Sperling (John Lithgow). We don’t know what the hearing is about but it’s clear that Elizabeth may be facing serious charges, since her lawyer repeatedly coaches her on taking the Fifth Amendment against self-incrimination. A series of flashbacks explains what has brought her to this point.
We discover that Elizabeth Sloane will do anything to win, moral or not. As an employee of a major Washington lobbying firm, she sits in on a meeting with the pro-gun lobby about improving its image among women. After the pitch, she bursts out laughing, contemptuous of the simplicity and transparency of the approach. This doesn’t sit well with boss George Dupont (Sam Waterston), who later upbraids her and orders her to mend fences and secure the account, which is worth millions of dollars to the firm. But Elizabeth is approached by the head of a competing, though smaller, lobbying firm, who offers her carte blanche to head a campaign to get a gun-control bill passed by Congress.
Elizabeth Sloane is not your typical movie heroine, or even anti-heroine. She grates on people, she’s brash, she cares little about her staff, she has no friends. Her job has cost her a personal life, but she doesn’t seem to mind. She has no time for a real relationship and satisfies her physical needs with trysts in a hotel with a paid escort.
The film builds the plot by revealing the machinations of Elizabeth’s mind and her unorthodox modus operandi, which involves trusting no one, keeping parts of her overall plan under wraps from her own team, and — like a chess master — planning her moves while contemplating not only her opposition’s moves, but her own reactions to those moves.
Ms. Chastain plays Elizabeth with an icy resolve and a underlying contempt for those around her. Recognizing that she is the smartest person in the room, she acts independently, machine guns orders, expects instant answers to questions she poses at team meetings, and is the epitome of intimidation. Looking business-elegant in close-fitting dresses and blood-red lipstick, Elizabeth is a tireless worker and a fierce competitor.
Mr. Lithgow is effective as a Congressman who is not above making deals that will benefit him, and Sam Waterston brings his experience from such shows as Law & Order and The Newsroom to portray Dupont as a CEO who cares more about the depth of his clients’ pockets than the worth of their causes. Gugu Mbatha-Raw plays Esme Manchurian, a woman singled out by Elizabeth as the public face of the firm’s campaign to get the gun bill passed. Esme’s deep connection with her fellow human is in marked contrast to Elizabeth’s total lack of concern.
Movies about real people rather than superheroes or animated critters have strong appeal. We may not like Elizabeth Sloane very much, but we are definitely intrigued by her and interested in what makes her so cold and detached. This political thriller is also a character study of an alpha personality at work.
Rated R, Miss Sloane presents a conflict. The title character is amoral and cold but on the liberal side in the gun control debate, which makes it tough for a viewer of like sentiment to warm to her, but that’s director John Madden’s point. It may not always be morally upright individuals who espouse good causes.
The only bonus extra on the 2-disc widescreen Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack is the behind-the-scenes featurette “Lobbying: Winning by Any Means.”