3-9 March 2017 #848

Miss Sloane

Miss Sloane is a character study of an extraordinary, enigmatic schemer with real issues when it comes to drawing lines between right and wrong.
Sophia Pande

Now that the Academy Awards fiasco is over, it is time to shift the focus to some films that were entirely snubbed by the fickle Academy and its voters.

Nonetheless, they managed to actually get it right this year, even when the presenters (poor old Warren Beatty, and not so poor Faye Dunaway) got it wrong initially -- a monumental blunder that announced the incorrect film as winner of no less that the Best Picture category. The hapless La La Land team was on stage making speeches before men with headsets and Jimmy Kimmel, the show’s host, clarified that it was actually Moonlight, the underdog and critic’s darling, that had really won. No, really.

While some things did get done right, overlooking Jessica Chastain’s awe inducing, powerhouse performance in Miss Sloane, John Madden’s political thriller, is a shocking lapse.

Chastain is riveting onscreen as Elizabeth Sloane, a brilliant, hardnosed mastermind who lobbies for a living, taking on challenges that appeal to her just to show that she can win. The woman is always two steps ahead of her opponent and losing is not an option.

When Elizabeth Sloane takes on a case that involves lobbying for increased gun control, she comes up against some of the most ruthless politicians in America, willing to do whatever it takes to quash any move against their entrenched hegemony and vested interests; unfortunately, while some may think there is too much hyperbole here, the current American administration is a pretty clear example of the disgraceful means to which people will resort to get what they want.

Miss Sloane is a character study of an extraordinary, enigmatic schemer with real issues when it comes to drawing lines between right and wrong. What makes the film so compelling is Chastain’s ability to humanise a brilliant, hardworking woman who is also deeply troubled.

There are real sociopaths out there in the world, people who lie compulsively, think they are amazing because they have the loudest voice and the biggest laugh, and harass women while they are at it, thinking nothing of their casual, engrained sexism as they move towards their goals of money and power – apparently the only things worth having no matter the cost.

In this film, as Elizabeth Sloane learns, and, regrettably, also in real life, these people are not just confined to politics, they operate in every sphere, usually with an impunity that only feeds their dangerous vanity.

Meanwhile, in a powerful movie about morality and humanity, a highly talented actor has been left on the sidelines. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact she plays a character that is a flawed, difficult, outspoken, ambitious woman.

This is an edge of your seat thriller. It also has the unusual quality of actually having a really important life lesson: in the end it is not “getting ahead” but how you treat people that really matters.