Here’s one of the problems with this movie. After we all just witnessed the craziest presidential election of all time, we should totally be able to believe the crazy contrivances of a lobbyist that will do anything to get a gun bill passed. Yet most of the time it’s unrealistic, and comes across as a bad TV drama. That being said, you’ll enjoy watching a character study, when the lead actress is Jessica Chastain. It’s a shame the filmmakers felt that she needed to be a complete nutjob. It would’ve been much more interesting to make her a tough as nails lobbyist that might turn people off, but gets the job done. This character is so over-the-top that we stop caring about her or her cause.
Elizabeth Sloane (Chastain) is a Capitol Hill lobbyist that’s highly sought after. She’ll break rules, kick ass, and take names. After rudely dismissing some tactics her new clients (NRA) want to employ, she ends up jumping ship and fighting against them. All her employees follow her, except one (Alison Pill). She promises to make that woman regret it. And we believe her.
My girlfriend and I were laughing after a funny exchange between two characters and I said, “Ya know what? This feels like an Aaron Sorkin screenplay.”
This was screenwriter Jonathan Perera’s first script, and good for him. His script got an Oscar nominated actress and director John Madden (loved The Debt and Shakespeare in Love….hated his Exotic Marigold Hotel films).
It was snappy banter from all characters involved. It’s not like Sloane said something rude to an underling, and they sheepishly walked away. They would have a humorous response. The same with her bosses (Michael Stuhlberg, Sam Waterston, and Mark Strong — all terrific actors with great presence). It’s always refreshing when bosses are written as intelligent characters, and not like dolts that are being taken advantage of by the protagonist in the story. It’s just a shame that Perera felt Stone had to be a complete nutjob. It’s less interesting seeing her pop bills, complain about insomnia, and pay male prostitutes (Jake Lacy, who was so good in the underrated Obvious Child). This is the fourth movie I’ve seen this year that has women paying for sex. Does any woman do this in real life, or is this just an idiotic plot device screenwriters are using lately? It seems much more plausible to have Sloane, if she’s not interested in a conventional relationship, meeting a guy in a bar and going home with him. When she’s done, she can leave…or tell him to take a hike; not paying a guy, leaving a paper trail and other possible problems that an escort could bring. Or will this be that character screenwriters love — the hooker with a heart of gold?
That’s one of many problems in the script, and I can’t tell the others without giving things away.
The story is framed between sequences showing Sloane in front of the Senate (John Lithgow doing the grilling). That would’ve been a powerful way to do it, if we hadn’t recently seen Hillary Clinton continually testifying “I don’t remember” or “I can’t recall.” It was hard for me to feel like Sloane wouldn’t be able to talk her way (or plead the 5th) out of this jam.
There were a few interesting scenes with Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Belle, Concussion), but it was predictable which direction that would go, and it made it less effective.
The goofy electro-style score of the film didn’t work. It sounded like something from Contagion (Matt Damon).
Most will find the ending powerful. The problem is that it’s utterly ridiculous. You can’t believe any of this stuff would’ve actually happened. Yet with such fun dialogue, I was able to be entertained enough and not worry about the lack of authenticity.
2 ½ stars out of 5.