unethical stuff

Miss Sloane

Miss Sloane, a film about a ruthless yet just lobbyist (read lobbyist who does unethical stuff, for an ultimately ethical cause) on Capitol Hill, was probably not meant to crack anyone up while watching it.

But still that’s what the film managed to do to me I spend a large part of its over 2 hours long run laughing out loud (The Nutella Tax, robot/spy-roach (I wasn’t laughing so hard when I read that’s actually a thing) as well as the lines: “Were you ever normal as a child?”, “No civilized person would ever eat a cake for breakfast” I’ve done that, which is precisely why it made me laugh so hard) made me lose it.

During my first viewing of the film I thought it had a ridiculously overdramatic script, it seemed to me like the kind of film that tries so hard to make sharp digs about its subjects, that it doesn’t realize how funny it becomes in its desperate attempts to come across as serious and intelligent.

These are sometimes the kind of films that have me laughing louder than a comedy that’s actually truly aiming to make you laugh, but actually, is going about it in quite contrived fashion.

Though I must admit that upon my first viewing of Miss Sloane, I was so dead tired that I really wasn’t quite processing what I was seeing, it’s the kind of tired that along with one or two glasses of wine would make anything even remotely funny. Still, something stuck out enough to me in Miss Sloane, it was one witty dialogue at the beginning, that I remember for how genuinely cynical yet also hilarious and well acted by Miss Chastain that made me want to watch it again.

Yesterday I did just that, and the conclusion is that I misjudged the film upon its first viewing and I loved it the second time. However I can for sure understand the problems some people have with it, it’s not always an easy film to follow, at times it seems like it doesn’t know for sure what genre it wants to be.

Does it want to be a hard-hitting political drama, or does it want to be a comedy, that in it’s mostly subtle, sometimes absurd, dark, sarcastic humor is attempting to criticize politics, the lobbying industry as well as the firearms industry? Or even a thriller or psychological thriller?

I recognised all these genres in there, but since I found it to be so delightfully acted and liked the overall direction of the film and it’s aesthetic, it’s not something that I perceived necessarily as chaotic, I simply saw it as a film that winks at multiple genres and through that separates itself from other political dramas.

I’m normally not a huge fan of that particular genre, which doesn’t mean that I can’t appreciate it when it’s truly well done, but it’s a genre of which we have so many films that I usually find that they lack passion.

However I am a huge fan of Netflix’s House Of Cards, I never thought that I’d watch three episodes of a show with politics as it’s basis, but yes I love House Of Cards, and it’s not only for Spacey’s at the same time scary/hilarious inner monologues that he delivers with that apparently totally vacant of emotion look, while in reality, he might be pondering over possibilities of setting you on fire and getting away with it too….

House of Cards uses a type of humor that I love, a humor that’s dark, sarcastic as well as occasionally self-deprecating, yet at the same time House Of Cards also delivers a critique of politics and how power can affect and sometimes corrupt the person that wields it.

Miss Sloane reminded me of House Cards in the best possible way, it’s not a film copy of the tv show, it simply uses that same kind of humor, but has critique lying underneath it and all the while it is genuinely suspenseful and you also get to enjoy some truly fabulous performances.

I haven’t mentioned it yet but Miss Sloane is actually a film about a woman working against the gun lobby, (she starts her own campaign against them and is joined by former colleagues that transfer to her side) while she was one the  women that worked for them for years, it’s never really implied while she worked for them probably because she saw it as challenging work and Sloane is a woman who likes challenges.

But it seems that over the years her own conscience has caught up with her and she can’t fight for something that she does not genuinely believe in anymore, she personally wants stricter gun control while her employers want less; they are obviously conflicting views.

But the one thing that does it and that makes her quit almost instantly although it had also been motivated by a shift in her own personal views, is that her employers tell her that the gun lobby is still not connecting with the female demographic, to little women buy guns in their view.

And they have their own strategy of winning them over and ask for the advice of Elizabeth (Miss Sloane), who finds it downright laughable and insulting. This is the moment, something in her turns and she joins the competition that will defend a bill (fictional) the Heaton-Harris bill that goes against the gun lobby, she will get a lesser salary at this job and it likely comes with fewer luxuries, but her own convictions are still more worth it.

While she left her former employer for moral and ethical personal convictions, there’s also a degree of selfishness in her decision: she simply didn’t find the work all that challenging anymore, the gun lobby and the weapon industry, is as is mentioned multiple times throughout filthy rich and ever powerful, any challenge against them is easily crushed, they are not directly referred to as the unbeatable enemy, but that is sentiment anyway.

Elizabeth is a challenge junkie, she lives for devising countermeasures, strategies, and tactics and she is intoxicated by doing the impossible; beating those that can’t be beaten.

So she is truly a real human being, like some of us she acts for reasons that she believes is simply the right thing to do, but she of course also wants to be personally benefitted, she wants her reputation lifted up, she wants to be perceived as even tougher than she already is.

And while she actually does act from a belief to do good, she is ruthless in her way of going about that and not above stepping on others or downright screwin’ them good for the supposed greater good, because as she sees it, she might have hurt someone but if the end result is positive and ultimately good then it’s all good right?

But this approach of hers often has disastrous consequences for her in her personal relationships, she destroys actual lives under the guise of the greater good, she’s not a beloved woman, people don’t like her, she’s seen as a cold frigid remorseless bitch, of course she has feelings but those she doesn’t often show and in that she reinforces the vicious cycle in which people see her, by showing no feelings she makes sure that people think she doesn’t have any feelings that can be hurt.

And thus she is inevitably an incredible lonely woman  but as always there is a reason for that, she is a woman with a spine of steel towards the outside world, but often when alone does the facade crumbles and out comes the sentiment of vulnerability and not being in control, cinema always wants to make us believe that is the price tough businesswomen pay, loneliness.

And the role of the frigid ice queen is one that has become so cliche that I usually don’t expect much of it, but Jessica Chastain does a remarkable job, she shows us a tough yet multifaceted woman, Chastain is as they say, truly scarily good…

Not one gesture is amiss, and when the camera pans in on her, every word comes with creepy, unflinching perfection; you have to wonder where does the character end and where does the actress start?

What’s so great about it, is the emotion she manages to transfer trough her emotionless. She brings some kind of transparency to a woman whose face is unreadable, whose emotions, actions, and motivations you never can quite grasp, yet she offers us the slightest glimpse behind that high wall of protection.

But it is again a mere glimpse, the woman who was a mystery, for the characters around her stays a mystery for us as well and her actions still manage to surprise them and us the audience as well.

Ultimately the real question was for me: is she just a raging bitch? Or is she a raging bitch because she has been shaped that way, and should we feel sorry for the woman that would never want you to ever feel sorry for her? Therein lies the beauty of Chastain’s performance, she makes us feel both multiple times throughout the film and thus makes her human and multisided, yet a part of her remains unfathomable.

While Chastain’s performance is the central one and the one that would stand out the most to most people, she is supported by actors and actresses that are all on the same level, they may not stand in the spotlight as much but they are a good counterbalance to Chastain.

Especially Gugu Mbatha-Raw as someone that becomes her only best friend, but whose feelings she ultimately hurts, the dynamic between the two is both beautiful and painful to watch. There’s many other good performances, anyone’s issue with the film is probably not going to be the performances.

It’s also not likely to be the cinematography, the cinematography is like that of many political dramas and thrillers, meticulously crafted, clean looking, stylish as well as elegant. That can be said for a lot of films of the genre, but a lot of them are not really that much of a treat for the eye as they tend to stick to style conventions of the genre.

‘Miss Sloane also largely does that but it is a bit more daring and therefore more entertaining to watch, it pays great attention to detail, such as the intensity of lightning and the colors, it has much more color in it than most films of its genre.

Variation in these is often used to reflect the internal state of the main character, and it successfully brings us closer to her, or at times even distances us, the result is some truly pretty shots throughout the film, this alone makes it stand out.  The soundtrack or rather it’s predominant absence, (no ridiculously ominous music predicting that something is going to happen) was a nice welcome.

The issue anyone could have with it is more likely to be personal, on a political level. Before I watched it I didn’t know how controversial Miss Sloane apparently was in America, and it was received in lukewarm fashion as well, the gun lobby even tried to boycott it and it’s not at all that difficult to see why… Truth be told I fucking loved the thing!

While it as a European production, made by a European director, set in an American environment, treating what could be seen as typically American subjects, and perhaps that would offend some people, but ‘Miss Sloane’ is more of a general, although deep cutting reflection on abuse of power, and political power play and cat and mouse games in this case in Washington but it could easily have been set in another country.

‘Miss Sloane’ is an open blame not only against the practices of the American arms industry, which as the film wants us to believe (I quite frankly don’t know much about it) tackles any initiative directed against them, that they perceive as a nuisance through dirty play, but against the lobbying practice in general that has overcome the process of law with the force of a cancer. As Miss Sloane, herself says"The system is rotten, it rewards the rats.” A fictitious quote, but one that sets to thinking anyways, because it is eerily true in many areas.

- Were you ever normal? As a child? Or were the twisted thought processes in your mind hardwired in the womb?

“Career suicide’s not so bad when you consider the alternative is suicide by career.”