Jessica Chastain is great. We get that. She’s hailed as the new Meryl, although I’m not sure she can do comedy. She’s always terrific as these professional women taking on a mans’ world and winning. Zero Dark Thirty, for example, or A Most Violent Year. (I think she’s more Isabelle Huppert than Streep, but it’s not a bad alternative…)
Anyway, thing is, if you’re that good and that smart, you’re often going to be in films that aren’t quite up to your exacting standards. Miss Sloane is one of those.
It’s a decent enough attempt, set among the fast-talking world of Washington lobbyists. It’s all very fast-talking and reminded me mostly of an Aaron Sorkin thing, without the Sorkin. It’s a bit Newsroom (Alison Pill is here, as is Sam Waterson, probably looking so worried because he’s wondering how his daughter’s getting on with the aliens and Ridley Scott). It’s also a bit West Wing and House of Cards, and could have worked as a streamed TV series if it were interesting enough.
You’d watch more of Chastain’s Sloane character, for sure. She’s a terrier boss, waking her employees at 3am with demands, talking in whirlwind sentences and coming out with witticisms and smartnesses and facts, popping secret speed pills in the loo and only having time for sex with paid escorts late at night in… does she live in a hotel room? I think so.
She switches sides from a big corporate nasty shady lobby firm to work for the good charity guys “on the Hill” to help overturn a gun control bill, which mainly involves a lot of talking in various locations – hotel lobbies, airports, cafes, corridors, public parks, courtyards, glass offices, on the phone, person to person, car parks, cocktail receptions – I mean, this film is just people talking and walking. It’s that sort of film which makes you thankful you don’t work in an American office, with all those meetings, coffee cups and snide Ivy Leaguers going Boom! and “getting on it” and whooping.
Which is fine, but it takes a very long time for anything to actually happen that might be remotely construed as dramatic or interesting to look at (apart from Chastain, who seems to realise this and gives it her all, with her flared nose, quivering lipsticked lips, bared white teeth, like a thoroughbred in the slips, just waiting to be unleashed for a run at another juicy bit of dialogue).
Drama does come in the final furlong, in the shape of a courtroom senate hearing thingy, involving the usual hammer banging, gallery murmuring and gasps from laptop tapping journalists.
Frankly, that’s too little, too cliched and too late and such a big switcheroo it left me spluttering with frustration. I think director John Madden knows it, because there are flashbacks at the climax to check we’ve been paying attention – these are never a good idea, because if you have been awake, you’ll have noticed all these things for yourself thanks very much, and if you haven’t, well, now you’re confused and the impact of the finale has been interrupted and frankly you just want to get home and stop all these unpleasant people from talking.