Jonathan Perera began work on this, his first feature film script when he was a 30 year-old expat living in Asia. He found an agent for his maiden effort and something astounding happened; his script was purchased, financed and produced in record time with no one but Perera touching the script. That’s astounding for a freshman screenwriter--much easier to know where to pin the blame for Miss Sloane’s unintentional absurdities.
John Madden, the British director of such fluffy efforts as Shakespeare in Love and The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel tries to coax subtle inferences about political power and its manipulation by lobbyists in Washington but this script offers little more than a chance to watch the talented Jessica Chastain impersonate a bitterly acerbic political operative without once delivering a shred of credibility to her character. Although the actress has been nominated for a Golden Globe Award for her efforts, she should pray to be passed over. She plays the title character, a ruthless professional shaper of legislation whose cynicism is exceeded only by her self-destructive personal traits and the sarcastically condescending tone she employs with everyone, especially her subordinates.
Sloane’s storyline revolves around a battle over proposed gun legislation that would require universal background checks, but the merits of that issue are buried under Sloane’s personal feuds with boss, clients and underlings alike. Obsessed with the desire to win at any cost, her apparent success at manipulation culminates in a Senate committee hearing on possible criminal charges. But in an effort to pull a climatic surprise out of its hat, the script turns logic on its head, allowing Chastain’s character to emerge as a forceful opponent to the very principles of her professional career. Never has the ending of a supposedly “serious” film been so lame.
Chastain is an actress of considerable talent as her previous Oscar-nominated work (Zero Dark 30, The Help) confirms, but as a tough-talking harridan, she’s so miscast here that her performance doesn’t rise to the level of mesmerizing threat the script requires. She’s not frightening, just deeply annoying and the film’s denouement succeeds only in making her look downright silly.
Mark Strong, the talented British actor so effective in films such as The Imitation Game & Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy plays Sloane’s boss, but he’s given so little to do his role could easily have been simply erased from the screenplay. To add insult to injury, John Lithgow and Sam Waterson are wasted as old cronies scheming to destroy the movie’s obnoxious female protagonist. There’s an air of supposed insider cynicism about all characters here - - and that pervasive sense of the bogus sinks this tedious drama.
The Verdict? Not even worth the effort months from now when it appears among the titles available on Netflix or Apple.
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