MISS SLOANE: Chastain Is in Control

Political dramas are nothing new in Hollywood, but women-led stories about power struggles in Washington are rare. Serving as a showcase for Jessica Chastain’s immense talent, Miss Sloane depicts months in the life of a female lobbyist, the titular Ms. Sloane. Elizabeth Sloane walks out of her high-paying position to join a startup group, with plans to fight against the gun lobby.

Everything revolves around the tightly-coiled energy of Chastain’s performance as this anti-heroine, a woman who confesses to a co-worker she forced into the spotlight, “I never know where the line is.” Her flat-ironed red bob, immaculate makeup and impeccable outfits all speak to her whip-smart control.

Where another film might dwell on Sloane’s dependence on little white pills or her predilection for male escorts, these are treated in Miss Sloane as further proof of her desire for command. She’s complicated and driven; the screenplay doesn’t try to explain it away with any sort of background history into her character. Sloane has the kind of mind that is a few steps ahead of everyone else. She is who she is, and that’s a unique character that can finagle with legalities and still have the viewer pulling for her. As she offers to a colleague, “Guess I’m just a piece of work!”

The opening scenes toss us into her world, throwing confusing jargon at us (all I picked up was something about palm oil and Indonesia). But it doesn’t take long for the the viewer to become immersed in the constant movement, the high-speed of the drama accompanied by a melodically pulsating score from Max Richter. There are twists you don’t see coming, with Sloane’s decisions affecting the lives of her new boss Schmidt (Mark Strong), former co-workers (Sam Waterston and Michael Stuhlbarg), and younger associates (Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Alison Pill). Some will stand by, and few will stand up to her.

On the surface, it appears this might be a plot based around the fight for background checks and gun control in Congress — or even a battle between competing lobbying firms — but Miss Sloane is truly a character-driven drama. Chastain delivers one of the most multi-faceted performances onscreen this year. Miss Sloane makes me hungrier for more cinematic representations of flawed, powerful women, treated as the complex characters they are.

Miss Sloane opens in Austin today, Dec. 9.

Originally published at old.cinapse.co on December 9, 2016.

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