Jessica Chastain is an absolute powerhouse in “Miss Sloane”

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It’s easy to appreciate great acting. You know it when you see it. Especially during this part of the year, it pops up often. Well, let me tell you that Jessica Chastain shows you how it’s done in Miss Sloane. Out this weekend, it’s among her very best performances to date. Not only is it the sort of work that demands consideration from awards and such, it’s a timely film that is only more relevant now. Give or take a terrible ending, it’s a really strong movie that deserves to find an audience. Standing tallest in Miss Sloane, of course, is Chastain. She’s just terrific here.

The film is a political drama with elements of a thriller as well. Elizabeth Sloane (Chastain) is known as one of the best lobbyists in the business. A superstar at her giant firm, she does anything and everything in order to win. Considered ruthless and almost unbeatable, she’s a huge asset. When the firm and its top dog George Dupont (Sam Waterston) asks her to help kill a gun control bill making its way through Congress, she can’t do it. Instead, she leaves for a boutique firm run by Rodolfo Schmidt (Mark Strong), which is leading the fight to pass the bill. Thus begins a knife fight that neither side is fully prepared for. John Madden directs a script from John Perera. Also in this really strong cast are the likes of Jake Lacy, John Lithgow, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Alison Pill, Michael Stuhlbarg, and many more. The score comes from Max Richter, while the cinematography is by Sebastian Blenkov.

Chastain carries this movie, though the script is also very sharp. Aside from a real nose dive that it takes in the final 20 minutes or so (seriously, it has way too much in common with another flick in terms of what the climax is like, but I won’t say which, for fear of spoilers), Perera’s writing evokes Aaron Sorkin at times. The dialogue is snappy and Elizabeth Sloane is a full cinematic character. Of course, Chastain then elevates her, resulting in one of my favorite portrayals of 2016 so far. The product may lean a bit left, but it’s so shark-like and clinical about lobbying that it won’t exclude more moderate or conservative audience members. It’s overtly political, yes, but in a way that almost everyone will be able to handle.

Awards wise, Miss Sloane definitely has a central focus. Still, I think there’s a big campaign that can be launched, hoping for citations in Best Picture, Best Director (for Madden), Best Actress (for Chastain), Best Supporting Actor (for Lithgow, Strong, Stuhlbarg, and/or Waterston), Best Supporting Actress (for Mbatha-Raw), Best Original Screenplay (for Perera), and Best Film Editing. EuropaCorp probably is laser focused on just Actress for Chastain and Original Screenplay for Perera, though there’s a chance Picture could come into play if it hits in the right places. The movie could get shut out, but it should contend right down to the wire. We shall see.

Here now are Chastain’s ten best performances, so far:

1. Zero Dark Thirty
2. The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Her
3. Miss Sloane
4. Interstellar
5. The Martian
6. A Most Violent Year
7. Take Shelter
8. Jolene
9. The Tree of Life
10. Lawless

Honorable Mention: The Help

Overall, this week brings a smart awards contender in Miss Sloane. A film made for adults, it doesn’t talk down to audiences and put forward a winning central character, even if she’s not the most likable in the world. The box office will be a question mark, but if it makes money, I suspect the precursors will help put Chastain over into the fourth or fifth slot in Best Actress. Those spots are very much up for grabs and she certainly has the goods. In the meantime, this is a political drama/thriller that’s well worth seeing. Give it a shot and see for yourself…

Be sure to check out Miss Sloane, in theaters beginning on Friday!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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