(Photo credit: IMDB) I went to see "Miss Sloane" and absolutely loved it. Jessica Chastain in the title role of a DC lobbyist facing Congressional hearings is spellbinding. She delivers dialogue with conviction but also uses the expressions on her face more effectively than any other actress I've seen in a movie in a long time. Any aspiring actress should watch "Miss Sloane" and learn from the great. But this post is about more than simply telling readers to go and see the movie, which Chastain bears single-handedly on her shoulders and which therefore won't be to the taste of moviegoers less than enthralled by strong female leads (a segment of the U.S. population that has possibly grown over the past few weeks). Instead, this post is about my surprise at the lukewarm or downright negative reviews of "Miss Sloane", when the movie is so breathtaking from beginning to end, never letting the viewer guess what will happen next, providing plot twist after plot twist, bringing entertainment to a level rarely seen in Hollywood movies these days.
This excellent movie currently has a rating of 5.9/10 on IMDB, 68% on Rotten Tomatoes and 25% among Google users. Given the stellar performance of the cast and the spellbinding plot that keeps you on the edge of your seats, those ratings don't make sense, until you realize that Miss Sloane takes on the gun lobby by fighting for a bill that would introduce mandatory background checks and, after a long, take-no-prisoners battle full of twists and coups de theatre with her former employer, who represents her opponent, (SPOILER ALERT) actually wins. So I had to wonder, after I saw the movie, whether some of those reviews - pointing out that the writer is a first-timer "and it shows", complaining about the writer's view of lobbyists, taking issue with the ending (which I loved, although the epilogue after the ending was unnecessary - it would have been fine to cut at the end of the hearings scene where Miss Sloane looks at Esme, and not tell the viewer whether the bill passed or not) - were not possibly trying to undermine the impact of Miss Sloane's views by belittling the movie.
For instance, some people shouted "yes!" in the theater when Miss Sloane made arguments for universal background checks such as [this would delay approval by two weeks and, I paraphrase:] "anyone who is so desperate to get his hands on a gun should be kept very far away from having one." (Basically the goal of the movie's fictitious amendment, as I understood it, was to close the private sale loophole.) This kind of Hollywood-driven PR can't possibly please the gun lobby. Now, the engineer in me wanted to see data: how many deaths would be avoided by universal background checks? what makes it possible for such hatred to develop for other human beings that someone decides to kill innocent bystanders? won't people who really want to commit heinous crimes with guns simply wait two weeks [the waiting period people in the movie say they would have to put up with] and then do the deed? how many would-be gun owners are really turned away after a background check? would universal background checks be effective or would they only be a cosmetic measure? would making sure that assault rifles remain out of the hands of bad people be a more effective technique to prevent mass shootings (one of the characters survived a mass school shooting, which becomes a key subplot)?
So perhaps the pro-gun-lobby side of the equation wasn't argued with full force in the movie, where opponents of the bill stick to 2nd Amendment rights, but the movie remains excellent thanks to Chastain's gripping performance and the many plot twists. It is a great character study of some of the people who work in D.C.: the idealistic young kids, Miss Sloane's blase former employer played by Sam Waterston, the always-idealistic CEO of the rival boutique lobbying firm, and Miss Sloane, who will stop to nothing to achieve her goal. This is what makes the movie worthwhile - not what you think of universal background checks. The movie gives you a glimpse of the frame of mind of people who want to win at all costs, and what they do to make sure they succeed. Not a bad lesson to keep in mind.