“Miss Sloane,” directed by John Madden, is a diabolically clever film that shines a light on the influence of lobbyists in Washington. The immensely talented Jessica Chastain plays Elizabeth Sloane, a highly regarded lobbyist who succeeds in part because she has no friends or moral values.
Ms. Sloane leaves her influential lobbying firm when she rejects efforts to help the NRA oppose gun legislation that will require background checks for everyone. She becomes the chief lobbyist for a group fighting to pass this legislation, and she is soon battling her former employers.
Ms. Sloane has but one goal as a lobbyist, and that is to win, whatever it takes. Her motto is to save your trump card until after your opponent has played his. She is devious and completely untrustworthy, and she considers nothing off limits as long as she succeeds on behalf of her clients.
Ms. Chastain’s performance is a startling breakthrough for women, as her character has almost always been played by men. Her two principal former employers, wonderfully played by Michael Stuhlbarg and Sam Waterston, seek to find a way to bring her down, but doing battle with the equivalent of a female devil is a nasty business.
Her new employer, played with customary dry passion by Mark Strong, is forced to tolerate her singular dedication to succeeding. Two of her assistants, played with skill and passion by Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Alison Pill, will do nearly anything to help win the battle even if that involves being personally betrayed in the end.
Central to the unfolding plot is the fact that Sloane is brought before a congressional hearing on allegations of fraud. The congressman leading the charge (John Lithgow) has been forced to do the bidding of the pro-gun lobby if he wants their support for himself and a son seeking office. The exchange that takes place is both fascinating and a bit surprising, and it will remind you of what is going on in Washington today.
As most of you know, it has now been revealed that President Obama sought the cooperation of Congress to confront Russia over its attempt to influence our recent presidential election by hacking the Democratic National Committee’s emails and distributing them to WikiLeaks. The Republican Party, led by Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, refused to participate, allowing the activities of Putin’s minions to go unchecked. It has now been revealed that President-elect Trump has appointed McConnell’s wife, Elaine Chao, to a Cabinet position. “Miss Sloane” director Madden must be smiling.
The strength of this captivating film comes from the fact that Sloane is not a heroine. She plays by no rules other than to win in the end. Yes, it helps when she is advocating for a meaningful cause, but to her it really doesn’t matter.
Sloane knows that money talks in Washington and Congressional leaders will listen. Sad but true, on film and off.
“La La Land”
Whether it wins this year’s Oscar for best picture, you will not see a better film than “La La Land.” Written and directed by Damien Chazelle, who is coming off 2014’s hit “Whiplash,” this movie is creative, daring, funny and powerfully romantic.
The film tells the story of Mia, a struggling actress who accidentally meets Sebastian, a jazz musician who keeps knocking on his own professional doors hoping that one will eventually open. They both have hopes and dreams as they struggle to make sense out of a Hollywood landscape that keeps telling them no.
Mr. Chazelle’s film brings magic to the screen as you watch Mia and Sebastian gradually fall in love. It is here that the film resembles an old Gene Kelly or Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers movie as you watch ebullient song-and-dance numbers reflect the magnetism drawing two young lovers together.
The dance scenes are magnificent, and the performances of Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling as our young couple are shatteringly seductive. They end up dancing amongst the stars in a planetarium and on the edge of a cliff overlooking Hollywood, and they bring love alive in a tantalizing fashion.
Yet both Mia and Sebastian have professional goals that threaten the possibility of a lasting relationship, and it is here that your heart breaks as you root for them to somehow build a bridge to the future. It leads to an ending that will bring a smile to your face and tears to your eyes.
This is a film that deserves multiple awards at Oscar time. On top of that, Mia’s attire is as sexy as it is attractive, and it is doubtful that any woman will find fault with Sebastian wearing the exact same shoes in every scene. Love remains a very splendid thing.•
Robert Hammerle practices criminal law in Indianapolis at Pence Hensel LLC as of counsel. When he is not in the courtroom or the office, Bob can likely be found at one of his favorite movie theaters. To read more of his reviews, visit www.bigmouthbobs.com. The opinions expressed are those of the author.