Miss Sloan

 

            Elizabeth Sloan (Jessica Chastain) is the best lobbyist money can buy.  She's not just competitive, she's completely ruthless.  Her self-avowed method is to figure out what the opposition is doing, and then stay one step ahead of them.  You can surprise them, but they can't surprise you.  She also says that she likes to keep her inner circle very tight, meaning that even her own employees are on a “need to know” basis.  She runs them ragged and rules over them imperiously, but they are willing because they know she's a proven winner, and they want to be on a winning team, because it's good for their own resumes.

            Ah, but what happens when Miss Sloan, who has been married to her career all her life and has no family and no close friends, either, no hobbies and no diversions----decides that she's made enough money?  Does she then enlist to fight for a cause that she truly believes in?  Like a gun control bill that has never been able to get through Congress because of the NRA lobby and the 2nd-amendment flag-wavers?

            Yes, the issue is guns, which itself engenders as much emotion as a school shooting.  People on both sides are intransigent and personally invested and utterly uncompromising.  So how to lobby the members of Congress to support a bill that is bound to meet with formidable opposition at every turn?

            Ah, that's where our indefatigable Miss Sloan comes in.  The tension level is high, the dialogue is staccato, the stakes are life-changing, and there are lots of shenanigans on both sides.  Yes, if you're perceived to be the leader of the opposition, then they go after you personally, and nothing is considered out of bounds.  There's secret surveillance and moles in the enemy camp, personal documents used as indictments, and after a while the participants get the feeling that while they think their position is the principled high ground, their tactics have descended into the Abyss.

            Jessica Chastain is quite credible in this role as the human-dynamo big-time lobbyist.  We wonder, with all that intelligence and all those street smarts, what really makes her tick.  And we might be afraid to find out that “there's no there there.”

            Gugu Mbatha-Raw is also compelling as the staff member who did indeed have something personal at stake, which she tried in vain to conceal.  And who would have believed John Lithgow as a sleazy Senator?  Get ready to be taken on a fast ride that hurtles along at such dizzying speed that you're always kept guessing what's around the next bend.

 

Questions for Discussion:

1)      How much influence do lobbyists have on lawmakers?  How much influence should they have?

2)      Do you think that former government workers ought to be forbidden from accepting employment as lobbyists because of their inside connections?

3)      When is a lesser crime justified in order to expose a greater crime?

 

Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, DFW Film Critics Association