Miss Sloane not that smart

Breaking new ground for women in Hollywood, Miss Sloane represents a new kind of female lead – one in which her sex is absolutely secondary to the role.

Jessica Chastain (The Martian) plays titular character Elizabeth Sloane, a highly successful Washington lobbyist with sweeping confidence as she struts through scene after scene, bulldozing anyone who stands in her way.

Smart as a whip, obsessive, cold and calculating, Sloane has shunned a life of simple pleasures such as marriage, children or even eating "I'm waiting for the food pill," in favour of winning.

As Sloane tells us in the first direct-to-camera moments of the film, "Lobbying is about foresight, anticipating your opponent's moves and devising counter-measures. I was hired to win."

Her career moves are calculated and she eschews weakness of any kind, including empathy or compassion for those she works with.

Her co-workers are in awe of her ability if just a little afraid of her wrath should they not meet her impossibly high expectations.

Her motives are so single-focused, it almost seems disingenuous when she turns down a lucrative contract by the gun lobby to kill a bill promoting background checks.

Claiming that even she has a moral compass, she laughs in the client's face, much to the chagrin of her boss, the owner of the firm.

When she is approached by a small firm pushing to get the same gun bill passed, she jumps ship and takes half her staff with her.

The ones who remain seem relieved they no longer have to work under her tyranny and a few relish the opportunity to beat her at her own game.

At the new firm, Sloane brings her militaristic approach and expects the new team to march to her pace or get out of her way.

New boss Rodolfo Schmidt (Mark Strong – Imitation Game) is wondering if he's taken on more than he can handle, but is willing to let the newcomer do what she was hired to do.

In an initial meeting, long time staffer Esme Manucharian (Gugu Mbatha-Raw – Free State of Jones) tells Sloane that they can't expect to win, just come closer than they have in the past in the hopes that next time it will go through.

Sloane's eyes narrow as she tells her unequivocally that if she doesn't expect to win, she needs to quit. Manucharian is the polar opposite of Sloane as well as the film's moral compass and we know that at some point, these two women are going to butt heads.

No powerful protagonist is without a weakness and we soon discover Sloane hires escorts for sex, is addicted to uppers and is unable to sleep at night.

She has been burning the candle at both ends and something is bound to break.

Directed by John Madden (Shakespeare in Love), the film is gorgeously shot. Hyper-close ups put Sloane under the microscope and a lovely variety of interior and exterior shots bring the story to life.

Talented supporting actors such as Sam Waterston and John Lithgow have been well cast in interesting character roles and the film certainly wasn't without a budget. So what went wrong?

The problem lies in the script, written by newcomer Jonathan Perera, which is long (a whopping 132 minutes) and as excessively wordy as a David Mamet play.

Despite ample opportunity, Sloane never reveals her true motives for anything she does, which leaves her character flat and us unsympathetic to her fate.

In addition, several plot "twists" are contrived and predictable and the ending is well, dumb.

For a film that portends to be "one step ahead at all times," Miss Sloane is just not as smart as it thinks it is.

The result is an entertaining but forgettable foray into the underbelly of Washington politics.

I give this film 3 out of 5 hearts.

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About the Author

Kim Foreman-Rhindress is a graduate of the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City and London Western Conservatory of music for piano and voice. 

Kim has been performing in theatre and film for over 30 years in Canada, NYC, Palm Beach, Los Angeles, and the Netherlands. She has written several plays which have been produced in Canada and the U.S., and is the founder of Kelowna Voice Lab - helping people find their voice, be it singing or acting. 

A working musician, she performs regularly in Kelowna with her husband, Jim Rhindress, in an acoustic duo Smitten, and with her vintage trio Kitsch 'n Sync.  

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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