Miss Sloane barely even feels so much like it has something to say, which is one among many of the most disappointing aspects of the film. This Jessica Chastain vehicle, directed by John Madden (who had also directed her in the underrated The Debt) feels like it has something to say, but it doesn’t even have a slight idea how to get its own message across to its viewers. But that’s not the most troubling aspect of Miss Sloane, because it rarely ever feels like a production that’s inviting oneself to come along with its own flow. It isn’t so much like The Big Short in whose case the film is beating down its message with a sense of self-awareness, for Miss Sloane seems to have something agreeable on its outline, then beats down said message without going any further on it. I was hoping for something better, but I’ve only finished Miss Sloane feeling exhausted.
Jessica Chastain stars as Elizabeth Sloane, a cutthroat lobbyist facing gun laws in an attempt to pass gun control legislation in front of a conservative firm. The script was written by first-timer Jonathan, and it details Sloane’s own rise and fall to stand up for her own beliefs about gun control and doing whatever it will take to have her own voice heard amidst a background where her perspectives are only rejected all the more. We don’t know so much about Elizabeth Sloane’s own political convictions herself, but we know already what she’s fighting for, and she’s just doing everything that she possibly can in order to win. Right here, it almost feels like Miss Sloane had potential to become a refreshing approach to the political thriller, but rather quickly all of that promise falls flat when you look back upon obvious influences that show one by one.
Perhaps one of the most obvious influences I found was that of Aaron Sorkin, because the fact that Miss Sloane was indeed written by a first-time writer shows greatly. It’s easy to recognize a script by Aaron Sorkin for how clever it sounds, but in the case of a film like The Social Network this cleverness finds itself feeling natural to the environment. Jonathan Perera is obviously no Aaron Sorkin, but because of the way that characters talk with each other – it all feels faux clever, and many characters (minus Elizabeth herself) are written to reinforce what is also the film’s biggest setback. Because of the way that the dialogue feels, it’s no coincidence that the film’s best scenes and character moments happen to be the ones in which Elizabeth Sloane is alone by herself – where little dialogue is present. It seems wrapped inside of its own indulgences to the point that it only feels tiring.
The biggest problem with the film’s delivery, however, is present within how it goes about with presenting its message about gun control: it’s an agreeable one, but the fact that Miss Sloane is beating it down every opportunity it has doesn’t help its own case any further. Even though we have Elizabeth Sloane carrying a well-established and rounded character arc on her own part, everyone else is distinctively written to reinforce what she stands for. Something I liked more on the count that Miss Sloane did keep the titular character’s political leanings to herself, but also something that frustrated me because these characters didn’t feel so much like human beings for once again, the faux-Sorkin style dialogue only felt less natural by the minute. But that seems to be how John Madden decided to go ahead and direct this vehicle, it was without nuance and filled completely with indulgence to the point that the repetition only grew tiring.
Jessica Chastain’s performance, by no surprise, is a great one. But at the same time I still wish that she can take part in more projects that I’d end up loving, because she always manages to lift up subpar material into something worthwhile, and for her own performance as well as the beautiful cinematography, I can’t say that I hated watching Miss Sloane. Noting the Sorkin-esque dialogue, it also helps that Sam Waterston and Allison Pill happen to be performers who have worked with Sorkin consistently because their performances also seem to get the gist of what made allowed his most effective scripts to carry the sort of charm that they did. I wish that I could say the same for the rest of the performances, but they all come off as feeling present only to reinforce what the film is trying to bash into the head all the way through.
Supposedly this was made as a thriller, but I’m not entirely convinced for even though it wasn’t what I expected out of Miss Sloane, I still found this experience to be a slog to get through. I’ve already come to associate this with John Madden, because having come in expecting another thriller akin to The Debt which I surprisingly enjoyed myself, for the lack of subtlety and distinct need to be clever only pushed me away from coming closer to Miss Sloane as a whole. It’s easy to get suckered in on the count that Jessica Chastain is as wonderful and lovely as she always is, but the fact that Miss Sloane seems to be under the guise that it’s a thought-provoking thriller rather than just a movie that repeats what it’s trying to say every minute or two only makes for an exhausting viewing. By that point, Miss Sloane barely even has anything to say about the system it’s depicting – it’s just a hollow Aaron Sorkin knockoff at its very best.
Watch the trailer right here.
All images via EuropaCorp.
Directed by John Madden
Screenplay by Jonathan Perera
Produced by Ariel Zeitoun, Ben Browning, Kris Thykier
Starring Jessica Chastain, Mark Strong, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Michael Stuhlbarg, Alison Pill, Jake Lacy, John Lithgow, Sam Waterston
Release Year: 2016
Running Time: 132 minutes