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Review: Miss Sloane – Lady lawyer strategically assails gun lobby

Miss SloanePolitics has always interested me as a giant chess game that is played with words instead of the usual game pieces; where you can trick and trap the other player by thinking out your moves many turns in advance. The new film, Miss Sloane, does a pretty decent job of portraying the machinations of the lawyers and lobbyists in our political system, and makes a strong-willed, smart (and, yes, sexy) woman the key strategist in its story.

This movie is being marketed with the hashtag of #NastyWoman, the current feminist rally cry and not so subtle “F-U” to President-elect Donald J. Trump – a decision that was obviously made prior to the November 8th election, as the hashtag and a few lines in the film don’t seem to hold up quite as well as they would have if Hillary Clinton had won the electoral college in addition to the popular vote.

While watching this film I found its string-pulling premise fascinating and timely in that I’m certain Trump and his campaign “strategists” think of themselves as ingenious Miss Sloane like political players and not just simple morons with incredibly dumb luck. They are definitely touting that everything worked out exactly as they planned, like a bad TV sitcom where a clumsy character claims, “I meant to do that!”

Jessica Chastain plays the titular Elizabeth Sloane, a hard-boiled, conniving, win-at-any-cost lawyer/lobbyist who puts “cunning” back into the C-word. In an effort to expand on her already legendary reputation she decides to switch from a pro-gun lobbying firm to an underdog anti-gun organization that is trying to promote tighter gun control regulations. If she can pull this off her power-wielding credentials will be untouchable.

Miss SloaneMiss Sloane is kind of like watching a couple of episodes of House of Cards, but not nearly as much fun. (It might be impossible to top Robin Wright as Claire Underwood.) The script is sometimes a little too wordy and spoken too quickly, and there were a few instances where I was asking, “wait, what?” But, nevertheless, I always seemed to get the gist of the narrative, which is often stereotypical and predictable.

The cast also includes Alison Pill as Sloane’s bespectacled assistant; Gugu Mbatha-Raw as a sympathetic anti-gun lobbyist; Mark Strong as Sloane’s overseer; Jake Lacy as her gigolo; Sam Waterston as the head of the pro-gun lobby, with Michael Stuhlbarg as his head attorney; and John Lithgow as the congressman in charge of Sloane’s ethics trial – which is at the center of the film’s story.

I feel Miss Sloane does a decent job of looking at both sides of America’s polarizing gun debate, although the anti-gun side probably appears a little more honorable – you know, because of those nutty “liberal elites” making the movies out in Hollywood. The inevitable blowback on this film almost writes itself.

Unfortunately, as directed by John Madden and written by Jonathan Perera, Miss Sloane still seems to be very much a man’s take on how a wily woman might work in the wacky world of politics – and many pieces of this portrayal do not ring true (as confirmed by my wonderful wife).

Is proving that a woman can be just as ‘nasty’ as a man really necessary or helpful for the cause of women? I don’t think so, and I think this movie would have felt truer if it had a ‘real’ woman’s touch behind the scenes. Nevertheless, Miss Sloane is worth watching for Chastain’s excellent performance. Grade: 7.5/10

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About the author

Bob Leeper

Bob Leeper is the co-owner and manager of "Arizona’s Pop Culture and Alternative Art Network," Evermore Nevermore. He is the co-creator of the pop culture events Steampunk Street and ENCREDICON, and is a member of the Phoenix Film Critics Society. He also curates the Facebook fan site The Arizona Cave – AZ Fans of Edgar Rice Burroughs, and is one of the few brave and bold fans of Jar Jar Binks.

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