In the modern world of fashion the simple stiletto shoe many women wear can reflect both economic and social status, as well as the values and fashionable style of their owner. The height and extreme thinness of the sensational wafer thin-heeled designer stilettos worn by political lobbyist Madeleine Elizabeth Sloane when we meet her reflect that she is rich, influential, perhaps even ruthless on a grand scale.
Hot on the heels of the UN International Women’s Day the new movie directed by John Madden from a screenplay by Jonathan Perera starring Jessica Chastain, Mark Strong, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Alison Pill, Jake Lacey, Sam Waterston and John Lithgow is Miss Sloane (Chastain), who knows destroying the opposition to proposals she is championing can come at a great cost.
In the course of any day, Miss Sloane steps elegantly over either the bodies she uses or the one’s she annihilates in the political world she inhabits in Washington, where her stilettos showcase her status and style while symbolizing the heights she will aspire to climb in order to win.
When it happens, savvy and smart, a woman who bends most people to her will through wordy dialogue, Miss Sloane has to weigh up if the price is one she’s willing to pay.
American actor Jessica Chastian puts the capital F in feminism giving a riveting uncompromising performance as she who wins minor battles every single day in order to win the big war. Miss Sloane has worked long and hard to become one of the most successful and powerful behind the scenes players in Washington, working for an old school firm headed by George Dupont (Waterson). You wouldn’t say he’s a fan, but a man who in reality acknowledges that as a consultant she is a necessary evil among his retainers.
Miss Sloane runs her life with a crusader’s zeal, keeping her chosen team of professional colleagues in control through a mixture of admiration and fear. Many lives are disrupted or torn apart along the way as she endeavours to get at the truth as she sees it.
She is a woman for whom sex is only a paid for transaction, one which has to fit into her career. However it can become uncomfortable if the escort she meets in a hotel rooms wants more.
When she books in for her usual one night stand with the same man she has chosen, she finds a new man lying on the bed and is momentarily thrown. Miss Sloane doesn’t like scenes she cannot predict, however after her initial reluctance she discovers the handsome Forde (Jack Lacy) has a strong sense of humanity and vulnerability, she doesn’t know it yet, but he’s a man she can rely on.
His temperament is quite the opposite from her own aggressive nature. He is disarmingly sweet and seemingly susceptible to being wounded or hurt and gives her his word to keep their meeting a secret, which will for her prove a treasure beyond measure in a world where trusting anyone at all is so frequently dangerous.
The only element you have on your side in any situation if you are to win as a woman according to Miss Sloane is surprise, especially if you are championing the causes you believe in. If you lose that, well prepare yourself for the real world where prison can also become the only other option.
Miss Sloane has been engaged to fight the battle by a small not for profit agency led by Rodolfo Schmidt played by likeable actor Mark Strong, about changing the mind of senators voting on the issue of guns, something she believes in. She has been hired to WIN and really focuses like an obsessive, as she manipulates and manoeuvres in the fight of her life, ever sure right is on her side.
Her tactics inflame the passions of those who don’t want the second amendment issue of the ‘right to bear arms’ to be brought into line with our own times; the founding fathers not having Miss Sloane’s foresight of how the world could and would change in the future.
Playing a trump card at a US Senate hearing about her conduct led by an outraged Democratic legislator (John Lithgow) who has been retained by the head of her old firm (Waterson) because he doesn’t like the new cause she stands for, Elizabeth Madeleine Sloane is in the fight of her life.
Her performance can either mean career suicide or suicide by career.
A powerful and potent portrait of a political lobbyist in the American system, Miss Sloane stars actor Jessica Chastain. She is sporting a sleek and simple Titian hair bob with nary a hair out of place and it is no surprise she helped costume designer Georgina Yarhi choose her sophisticated business armour, or wardrobe, to give her character the look of a top notch professional, a woman who earns as much as $20 million annually.
Her reality means she needs to wear high end suits, figure hugging dresses and stunning classic coats like those by American designer Michael Kors and the traditional Burberry’s of London. They were all chosen from the selection at The Room at The Bay, a high end designer shop in Hudson Bay Toronto where the film was shot, along with those stilettos, well the Devil did wear Prada.
She struggles not to become a parasite on society by balancing her behaviour so as not to cross the line of morality where you stop treating people with respect and instead, treat them with disdain. But where is that line today? How do you know what side of it you are really on?
How do you keep yourself pointing due north and committed to doing the right thing, while negotiating such murky waters?
If you do overstep the mark is it enough to apologise when you expose the sad reasons behind the committed actions of one of your team Esme Manucharian (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) to the world on national television without any warning? Does it matter how many people you hurt so that you can WIN? The questions continue to pile up as we proceed.
Keeping the audience guessing as this wordy thriller proceeds with clever twists and turns along the way you cannot see coming, this is a taught topical drama with the white skinned red lipped Chastain living up to the concept ‘the end hallows the means’, which was first espoused by Niccolo Machiavelli (1499-1527) in his political writing on state authority.
In his time Machiavelli became the embodiment of the city of Florence in Italy’s sense of loss and powerlessness; in his book The Prince of 1513 he admired tyranny saying a republic needed a strong and ruthless leader.
We soon find out just how far the powerful gun lobby protagonists are all willing to go to in order to ensure that checks on those purchasing a gun demanded by a senate minority cannot gain the upper hand and from the criminal class to the highest offices in the land, those on top for the moment, use any means necessary at their disposal to bring Miss Sloane down.
While I applaud the performance of Jessica Chastain as Miss Sloane, it did disturb me male writers seemingly only imagine a woman winning in her professional career if she’s basically a bitch. I am sure there are many women leaders about who disprove this perception.
The movie Miss Sloane provides an insight into the influence the wealthy few have upon the interests of a nation and along the way you have the real sense this movie may only be the beginning of a spin off classy television series or trio of movies; there must be so many stories in Washington to draw upon. If that is the case then you couldn’t choose a better actor than Jessica Chastain as Miss Sloane and the landmark TV series The West Wing needs a successor and, she’s in a word, awesome!
Carolyn McDowall, The Culture Concept Circle, 2017