Welcome to the House of Crouse. It’s a packed house this week. Director John Madden goes long on his political thriller Miss Sloane and the pleasures of working with Jessica Chastain. T.J. Miller talks about laughing through the apocalypse and Riz Ahmed discusses realizing a childhood dream by starring in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. It’s loads of guests and loads of fun so c’mon in and set a spell!
Richard and CP24 anchor Jamie Gutfreund have a look at the weekend’s new movies, “Office Christmas Party” with T.J. Miller, Jason Bateman and Jenifer Aniston, “Jackie” starring Natalie Portman, “Lion” with Dev Patel and Nicole Kidman and Jessica Chastain as “Miss Sloan.”
Richard sits in with Erin Paul to have a look at the weekend’s new movies, “Office Christmas Party” with T.J. Miller, Jason Bateman and Jenifer Aniston, “Jackie” starring Natalie Portman, “Lion” with Dev Patel and Nicole Kidman and Jessica Chastain as “Miss Sloan.”
This weekend Jessica Chastain stars in the political thriller Miss Sloane. The title refers to the lobbyist main character but the film could easily have been titled Drain the Swamp.
Made before Donald Trump became president-elect, it only takes about 20 seconds before the word “trump” crops up in the dialogue. He’s never mentioned by name, but this look at “the most morally bankrupt profession since faith healing” paints exactly the ugly picture of behind-the-scenes machinations that Trump railed against on the campaign trail.
Chastain is Elizabeth Sloane, a sleep-deprived D.C. lobbyist “at the forefront of a business with a terrible reputation.” She’ll represent anyone, it seems, except the gun lobby, who offer her a lucrative contract, only to be laughed at and rejected.
Soon after she leaves her firm — one of the biggest in the country — to join a small, scrappy group who aim to whip up support for a bill that will demand background checks for all gun owners.
It’s a new hot-button peek behind the curtain of a political process, but Hollywood has been making Drain the Swamp movies for years.
The explosive Advise and Consent is based on former New York Times congressional correspondent Allen Drury’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel about the ratification of a secretary of state and the dirty little secrets people in public life must keep hidden. Political battle lines are drawn as a full frontal attack is launched on the character and credentials of the new nominee.
Director Otto Preminger almost pulled off one of the great casting coups of the 1960s when he offered civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. a role in Advise and Consent. The mercurial director thought King would be perfect for the role of a southern senator, despite the fact that no African Americans were serving in Senate at the time. King gave the offer some thought, but declined fearing the backlash and possible harm to the civil right movement.
More recently, in The Ides of March George Clooney (who also directed) played a Democratic Party candidate; the kind of guy who would make the top of Bill O’Reilly’s head pop off. He’s pro-ecology, anti-oil. He wants to tax the rich and legalize gay marriage. If he leans any further left he’ll topple over.
Although Clooney has spoken out about many of these topics in real life, he didn’t make a left-wing film. Instead he made a warts-and-all political movie about dirty dealings on the campaign trail.
The first hour is good stuff, great acting from Ryan Gosling, Paul Giamatti and Philip Seymour Hoffman and a fascinating, if occasionally dry look at life in the political fast lane. Then comes the blackmail, the meetings in darkened stairwells and double-crossing journalists.
Finally The Campaign, a comedy starring Will Ferrell and Zach Galifianakis as incumbent congressmen, begins with a quote from former presidential hopeful Ross Perot: “War has rules. Mud wrestling has rules. Politics has no rules.”
Neither does the movie; no rules or boundaries. These candidates go beyond the usual name-calling — “He looks like Osama Bin Laden” — to dirty tricks that would make Tricky Dick blush. It’s a through-the-looking glass-vision of how politics works that features ambition, greed, corruption and even a candidate who punches a baby.
The title of political thriller “Miss Sloane” refers to the main character, a lobbyist played by Jessica Chastain, but the film could easily have been titled “Drain the Swamp.” Made before Donald Trump became President Elect, it only takes about twenty seconds before the word “trump” crops up in the dialogue. He’s never mentioned by name, but this look at “the most morally bankrupt profession since faith healing” paints exactly the ugly picture of behind-the-scenes machinations that Mr. Trump railed against on the champagne trail.
Chastain is Elizabeth Sloane, a sleep-deprived D.C. lobbyist “at the forefront of a business with a terrible reputation.” She’ll represent anyone, it seems, except the gun lobby, who offer her a lucrative contract, only to be laughed at and rejected. Soon after she leaves her firm—one of the biggest in the country—to join a small, scrappy group who aim to whip up support for a bill that will demand background checks for all gun owners.
The bulk of the film consists of the inner-workings of a campaign, the dirty tricks and money management it takes to influence the influencers. Sloane, focussed on the win, pushes protégé and mass shooting survivor Esme Manucharian (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) front and center, making her the face of the issue. Soon unexpected personal consequences of Sloane’s aggressive antics and a congressional enquiry into her behaviour threaten to derail all her hard work.
“Miss Sloane” is a fast paced political suspense that reverberates with echoes of Armando Iannucci, Paddy Chayefsky and Aaron Sorkin. Zippy dialogue flies off the screen probably easier than it would actually fly off the tongue, giving voice to colourful characters who say mostly interesting things. “When this town guts you like a trout and chokes you with the entrails don’t come snivelling to me,” snarls Sloane. It’s a catchy line and Chastain spits it out with conviction and often transcends the rat-a-tat dialogue by bringing some actual humanity to a character largely made up of bon mots and a bad attitude. It’s a struggle for Chastain to grow Elizabeth Sloane as a character but in her rare quiet moments, when she isn’t mouthing Jonathan Perera’s carefully crafted words, she finds warmth and vulnerability in a person described as the “personification of an ice cube.”
All the good work, the dialogue, the character work, the timely “drain the swamp” subject, all of it, is undone in just a few minutes as “Miss Sloane” climaxes with one of the worst endings in recent memory. There will be no spoilers here, but in the movie’s final moments a crescendo of over plotting takes over, pushing the story into a melodramatic territory. Instead of echoing Armando Iannucci, Paddy Chayefsky and Aaron Sorkin, Perera appears to pay tribute to Agatha Christie with a series of ridiculous revelations that defy logic.
“Miss Sloane” feels timely but its determination to live up to Sloane’s ethos—“It’s about making sure you surprise them and they don’t surprise you.”—undermines it effectiveness.