Now on Blu-ray: The Political Lobbying Drama of ‘Miss Sloane’

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Miss Sloane

It’s easy to get wrapped up in cynicism over American politics. The system works slowly and change, no matter how desperately need, is never going to happen overnight. More frustrating, the special interests that are out to ensure that their preferred policy is adopted use their expansive financial resources to employ high-priced lobbyists that use their political connections and expertise to do their bidding. The high-stakes world of political lobbying is front and center in the drama Miss Sloane from director John Madden. Led by a strong performance by Jessica Chastain, Miss Sloane is a compelling piece of political drama for most of its running time before taking an all too convenient turn at its conclusion.

Elizabeth Sloane (Chastain) is a political creature with workaholic tendencies that are unmatched in her profession of political lobbying. She knows the polling data. She knows all of the players. If there’s an angle that will help her win, she’s going to exploit it. One day, the gun lobby enters her office with a proposition for her – help make guns more acceptable to women in order to stop the advancement of legislation that would require universal background checks on the purchase of firearms. She scoffs at the task much to the chagrin of her superiors, George Dupont (Sam Waterson) and Pat Connors (Michael Stuhlbarg). Instead she leaves behind her job, taking her team with her except for her once-loyal assistant Jane (Alison Pill), and begins working with the anti-gun lobby headed by Rodolfo Schmidt (Mark Strong). In the knockdown, drag out war of ideas, Elizabeth Sloane is unafraid to employ any kind of salvo to win, including blindsiding her co-worker Esme (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), a survivor of a mass shooting, no matter the personal cost to herself or others.

Miss Sloane takes place in a political world that resembles House of Cards more than anything else. All of the political players in this piece of political fantasy are thinking two moves ahead, wading in morally muddy waters in order to achieve their preferred objective. There’s a constant moral dilemma at the heart of the screenplay by Jonathan Perera that ponders the nature of doing wrong in order to achieve something that is right. Time and time again, Elizabeth Sloane employs tactics that are horrible in their ethical standpoint but they’re in service of a greater good in stopping gun violence. It’s fascinating to watch this unfold as Sloane’s colleagues are often repelled by her tactics and yet this headstrong woman hardly bats an eye at the protests raised by those who stand beside her.

The character of Elizabeth Sloane is a fascinating creation and Jessica Chastain gives the character an icy cold façade that serves her well in the cutthroat world of politics. Underneath that chilled exterior lies a lonely person, one that has abandoned any pretense of a normal life for her own professional glory. Unable to enter into a typical romantic relationship, Elizabeth gets her sexual needs met by Forde (Jake Lacy), a high-priced prostitute. Here’s character that whose job is to understand and manipulate people for political purposes and yet is incapable of maintaining simple human relationships because of her incredibly driven, selfish nature.

The narrative of Miss Sloane unfolds as the eponymous lobbyist is called before a Senate committee headed by Senator Ron M. Sperling (John Lithgow). At first the lobbyist uses the Fifth Amendment to avoid testifying before reaching a breaking point and telling it like it is. From there, the movie flashes back and forth between the events of the past and her testimony in the present. This all leads to the film’s conclusion, which dilutes the power of the drama that preceded it with a wildly improbable reveal that retroactively nullifies much of the film’s most effective aspects.

Miss Sloane is a mostly compelling drama about the behind the scenes actions that dominate American politics. It’s well acted, competently constructed, and fascinating in its constant moral dilemma on display. However, it’s ending is one of the most absurd conclusions of recent memory, one that takes this drama for adults out of the realm of reality and into the realm of pure political fantasy. Sadly, Miss Sloane is more interested in pure wish fulfillment at its conclusion than embracing the ethical ambiguity that its character has demonstrated since the opening scenes. But perhaps as American politics enters a whole new chapter of insanity, where the needs of special interests will take precedent over the needs of the average person, a bit of political fantasy is just what people will want. Miss Sloane certainly offers that.

Miss Sloane
  • Overall Score


A political drama with a fascinating character at the heart of its story, Miss Sloane remains compelling until a ludicrous reveal at the film’s conclusion which undermines most of the film’s effective drama.

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