Miss Sloane, a political drama by director John Madden (Shakespeare in Love), feels very much influenced by political thriller House of Cards from its setting to the lead role: a ruthless, politically driven main character who could do anything to accomplish her goal. Whether Kevin Spacey’s Netflix series focuses its efforts of the depiction of the political side of Washington DC, Jessica Chastain’s steady performance tries to shed some more light on the other side of the game, which is played by lobbyists.
Madden’s mastery with the camera is as well a reflection of the cold-tone atmosphere that David Fincher has recently given to its creatures (see again House of Cards and Gone Girl for references), as he opens the narration with a close-up framing of Sloane’s gaze, red-haired, very pallid skin and bold cremini lipstick, seeping through the camera, metaphorically directed to the audience. “Lobbying is about foresight,” she says. “Anticipating your opponent’s moves and devising countermeasures.” She opens with this line, setting the mood and feel for what is next to come. With this intro, first-time screenwriter Jonathan Perera presents the main character as bold, a fighter and committed to winning.
In what we later understand is a flashforward, Sloane is defending herself in a Senate subcommittee hearing. She is being questioned about her ethical behavior in a matter we can’t fully understand so early in the movie, as the plot will catch up later on. The scene ends after numerous attempts at having answers from Sloane, repeatedly rejected as she invokes the Fifth Amendment.
As the movie starts catching up, we flashback to months before the interrogation and we get to know a seemingly very unbroken character who built her reputation based on ruthlessness that made her being one of the most powerful players in the back scenes of the more large Washington game.
Sloane is employed as a lobbyist at the Cole, Kravitz & Waterman consulting firm when she is approached by powerful men who ask her help to coordinate a campaign to make gun ownership more appealing to women. As she sees this opportunity to make some good in the world, she just switches side and joins a scrappy boutique firm on the opposite side of the battlefield.
Chastain plays a character who, we found out as the narration continues, is more broken inside that she lets the outside world know. She appears to have some serious sleep issues, as she little relies on resting, making use of pills that make her stay awake continuously.
Outside of work, she seems to have rejected any chance of having a personal life. Her relationship with sex is based on a sentiment-free basis, as her need for intimacy are only satisfied by male escorts with whom she obligatorily prevents any emotional interest from even beginning. One of them, Forde (Jake Lacy) eventually becomes regular and he is later involved in one of the future hearings.
What makes Miss Sloane compelling is its very witty editing, accompanied by the rich photography and the directing choices. All in all, however, this doesn’t seem to be enough for this film to shine.
There is a mixture of great acting from Chastain herself, as well as Sam Waterston and Mark Strong, who play her two separate bosses George Dupont and Rodolfo Schmidt, and John Lithgow as her main political opponent, Ron M. Sperling.
Nonetheless, even with all these fine performances, an outrageous 132-minute runtime, a questionable ending, and some poor writing choices are definitely not enough to make this movie shine in an overcrowded field of political dramas; especially if the one you are trying to copy/defeat is House of Cards.