I’ve finally seen Jessica Chastain in a terrible movie. The always great actress plays a steely but tightly wound fast-talking, pill-popping con of a woman in Miss Sloane. Despite the movie’s poor direction by John Madden and an implausible script by Jonathan Perera, the essence of a wonderful actress hardly cracks under the weight of this film’s nonsense. In the face of moronic plot twists and an implausible smoke screen that isn’t revealed until the film’s anti-climactic ending, it’s still kind of interesting to watch a fine actress work even if it is with flimsy material.
Miss Sloane follows Elizabeth Sloane, a corporate lobbyist for hire out to take on the gun lobby in Washington D.C. Though it is a heroic cause, Miss Sloane seems to fall far short of being a hero. The film opens with her talking to the camera pulling the “trump card” cliche (which also calls eerie attention to just how irrelevant this film already feels). It turns out this direct to camera monologue is practice before she faces a Congressional panel for ethics violations.
With its breakneck dialogue, a style choice that is becoming hackneyed in these D.C. insider movies, some viewers may find their patience tested following jargon tossed around as if this were an episode of “Gilmore Girls.” Early in Miss Sloane it’s apparent that the actors are more concerned with delivering lines fast, loud and emotional instead of listening and reacting to one another. What they should be more worried about is how badly they will be burned on Miss Sloane’s warpath for her righteous cause. As the metaphorical bodies start piling up, the twists become laughable. It’s also kinda funny — not to mention suspiciously convenient — when it becomes apparent that everyone who has ever been burned by her cares enough to show up at her hearing.
There’s one tiny joy to the movie: Miss Sloane’s costume changes, which become increasingly neo-fascist as the film wears on. The one thing to look forward to becomes anticipating a new outfit to see if she can one up a previous look. She delivers at least three times. But she’s not a likable character in the least, and no surprise ending can make up for the two hours and 10 minutes you have to endure with this lady to fish out some semblance of redemption.
Madden is just in a horrible hurry to hit the plot points. The film’s score is all pulsing, tense electronics and its images often flash past in quick edits, trying to reflect our titular hero’s intensity. But really, this is just a movie that’s in a hurry to get to its punchline, and what a dozy you will get: It’s a Usual Suspects twist that falls laughably flat. It’s not enough to save Miss Sloane from looking like an unsympathetic sociopath, much less merit the film with her name a re-watch. This movie will likely fade away as a footnote in an otherwise noteworthy career for Chastain.
Miss Sloane runs 132 minutes and is rated R. It opens this Friday, Dec. 9, in our South Florida area at most multiplexes. For screening details across the U.S., visit the film’s official website. EuropaCorp USA invited us to a preview screening for the purpose of this review.