Miss Sloane (2016)

There was once a movie about a dynamic, red-haired lobbyist trying to get a hard-to-win Bill through Congress. She also falls in love with the widower President of the United States.  

Annette Bening and Michael Douglas got together in The American President (1995) and the movie had some great lines but a predictable end.

It was one of Aaron Sorkin’s early ventures into movies and provided the impetus for West Wing, the long-running television series which began in 1999.

The American President was a simple tale. Couple fall in love; couple have a fight over political principle; couple get back together when the male sees the error of his ways. When he sees this, Douglas, as first-term president Andrew Shepherd, delivers a stinging address to the nation where he rebuts allegations being made by his presidential opponent Bob Rumson (Richard Dreyfus). It’s all fly-the-flag stuff – typical of US movies about politics – but the words were moving and certainly prescient.

“We have serious problems to solve, and we need serious people to solve them. And whatever your particular problem is, I promise you, Bob Rumson is not the least bit interested in solving it. He is interested in two things and two things only: making you afraid of it and telling you who’s to blame for it. That, ladies and gentlemen, is how you win elections. You gather a group of middle-aged, middle-class, middle-income voters who remember with longing an easier time, and you talk to them about family and American values and character.”

The speech changes the president’s policy on an environmental Bill, thus allowing Sydney Ellen Wade (Bening) to win a tightly-held lobbying position. However, another plot stream, concerning guns, runs through the movie and Shepherd goes on:

“The other piece of legislation is the crime bill. As of today, it no longer exists. I’m throwing it out. I’m throwing it out and writing a law that makes sense. You cannot address crime prevention without getting rid of assault weapons and handguns. I consider them a threat to national security, and I will go door to door if I have to, but I’m gonna convince Americans that I’m right, and I’m gonna get the guns.”

All this bravura and a love story to boot. Good stuff and only marginally ruined by Wade bursting into the president’s office (after he has declared his new policy). He is telling his aides he needs to get to Congress in a hurry and she blurts out some nonsense about not taking Constitution Avenue because it’s a mess of traffic.

A PIECE OF WORK: JESSICA CHASTAIN

With this history, I watched the number-crunching on a gun bill Miss Sloane (2016), with Jessica  Chastain playing a dynamic red-haired lobbyist. The movie was complicated. It had twists and turns but I was sure it was headed for the big speech at the end, extolling the USA and how all the characters in politics had lost their way and how Miss Sloane for one wasn’t  going to play their game any more.

It’s too big a spoiler to tell you what really happens but suffice to say your comprehension of what happened earlier in the film is certainly tested. Putting the jigsaw pieces together in Miss Sloane provoked some stimulating opinions at the post-film dinner.

Chastain’s Elizabeth Sloane explains in the first scene that a good lobbyist plays their trump card only after their opponent has played theirs. During the film she produces all her best tricks in attempting to make law a Bill requiring strong restrictions on the purchase of assault weapons. 

Sloane has left her high-profile lobbying firm – and half her own purpose-built team who have stayed put – to take an offer from a boutique lobby company headed by Rodolfo Schmidt (Mark Strong).

She has the power of Washington against her, most notably career-making/breaking senator Bob Sanford (Chuck Shamata). With her previous bosses and her former team knowing many of her tactics, the fight is going to be even harder to win.

We see Sloane’s personal weaknesses which will make her vulnerable to her opponents and one wonders just how low or dirty she can sink to win. Schmidt calls her “a piece of work” which is hardly damning enough of the way she uses individuals to draw out the result she wants. 

Miss Sloane is the kind of film that telling too much plot would ruin the entertainment. It’s enough to say the long running time did not faze me at all and I found it’s fast-paced storyline interesting to its conclusion. 

Score: 3.75

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