A lobbyist will do anything to win. She knows the ins and outs of the game. So, what does it take to beat her? Or does she always win, because she’s always one step ahead?
In this chat, we discuss our perspectives on Miss Sloane. The transcript below has been lightly edited.
taiche (Chris Tai): Yo yo yo!
It’s been too long
jennism (Jenn Ng): It has. Let’s talk about something very relevant to the current state of things: Miss Sloane
taiche: Yes, Miss Sloane, starring Jessica Chastain.. about the high stakes world of… political lobbying! Something that @jennism might have firsthand experience with, yes?
jennism: Well, not exactly, because of the election, many of us are interested in understanding the politics of the nation. How did certain issues pass or fail? Why do certain groups vote one or the other?
And underlying all of this, political action committees or lobbyists, which is the focus of this movie
taiche: And how do politics wedge their way into changing national sentiments into action or lack thereof. Before this movie even started, knowing that it dealt with the gun lobby… I thought about our national reaction to school shootings.
jennism: I personally considered volunteering for a political action committee, but I had started to wonder how it would be like to dedicate your life to a cause and have that fail over and over again
taiche: About how we’ve become desensitized.
jennism: Interestingly, in America, most people have a very fierce opinion on the gun issues. How did we end up that way?
taiche: People hear about these high-profile events, people rush in the “name of action”… only for these movements/campaigns to peter out after a period of time.
jennism: And in our sophisticated consumer era (along with the whole “scrappy” way of working), changing someone’s mind requires a process. And isn’t that what lobbying is?
taiche: One thing I’ve been innately curious… especially with all the recent political news… let’s say we could accurately measure the heart of the nation… know how everyone feels about the major topics… what would those results look like?
jennism: I learned through Miss Sloane that lobbying is more than just someone mingling with government representatives. It is getting constituents to encourage their representatives
taiche: Are all of us in the echo chamber and perpetually tuning out the other side.
jennism: Well interesting thought, @taiche. I had a conversation recently with someone that what we want to know is the journey to someone making a decision about an issue. How did they get there? Why did they get there? What is the trigger point for that train of thought?
taiche: Lobbying is a tricky concept… it’s goal is to change sentiments… even if they aren’t the innate starting point. The perception is that the lobbyist knows more about the positions than the general population. And they are incentivized to do what it takes to change minds.
But aren’t those last two elements constantly at war with each other?
jennism: I also believe that the general population may find a lobbyist “dirty”. But it’s the job of persuasion
taiche: You wouldn’t need lobbyists if the population were better versed and “making the correct decisions”
jennism:This is what happens with a republic with a huge nation. Lobbying is the most effective ways to get things done. Because, I am assuming that if both sides put the same effort, then the representatives would be able to make the right decision
taiche: One thing I’ve always been torn about this concept… let’s say we did a national referendum… and it was 51% yes/49% no whatever the topic was.
jennism: At that 51/49, is that statistically significant?
How would the government look like if no lobbyists existed?
taiche: Should the needle be moved after the decision is made
“Get the money out of politics?”
The fervor over “draining the swamp” would seem to point towards less sympathy for lobbyists.
Let’s say it was 100% turnout
If it was done a second time… should the needle move?
jennism: Although isn’t that the trouble? A corporation who manufactures guns has an incentive for wanting less gun control. Otherwise, they have less profits. So that effort is biased.
taiche: And naturally that goes way up the chain. Defense contractors, corporate interests, all the middlemen involved in the business
jennism: Making decision for a country is difficult. There is a reason why this government system exists the way it does. It’s meant to be a system of check and balance
taiche: It ties into so many things… which is why I’m shocked that some people are furious over Donald Trump’s corporate ties.
He’s a big businessmen… everything is connected in the corporate world.
jennism: So what do you think of Miss Sloane as a film?
taiche: OK but let’s focus on the movie.
Right, so first of the bat… exemplary performance by Jessica Chastain.
She elevates the “ice queen”/”mercenary” role with her work.
taiche: Classic type-A personality… interesting because I wouldn’t necessarily rule that out for those movies. It’s a more extreme case… willing to do sacrifice anything to achieve the ends.
jennism: Actually very true. Similar to her role in Zero Dark Thirty
taiche: In both The Martian and Interstellar she was driven with saving the lives of people. ZDT is a more apt comparison
jennism: As the audience in Miss Sloane, we are primed to not respect her efforts. She pulls some tricks and is vicious to her team members
taiche: We see her pull strings, use (and abuse) sympathizers, and blow up personal connections to achieve her goal.
In this case, of defeating the gun lobby regarding a bill for more extensive background checks.
Some would try to tie that “type” to being female… agree or disagree?
She’s not a sympathetic character at the beginning. Yet Jessica Chastain makes the character very watchable
We want to see her fail. After all, there was at least 90 more minutes
Because it recalls some of the overtones toward the Hillary campaign
Although it skirted around potential gender issues, her character would be the “bitch”
I will say this, I enjoyed how the character was sketched, her nuances and ways of dealing with others… but I did not enjoy the situations the story drove her to.
What kind of situations?
Because the story… and the general plausibility is what frustrated me at times.
The idea that her tricks could not actually succeed?
Well, by the end we learn that events were a means to an end
That certain plot points were a lot more contrived than we were led to believe. And that stretched the implications
jennism: This is the Hollywoodization of lobbying. It’s not as cool and clear as it is depicted
taiche: One sympathetic character is suddenly threatened in a topical manner… and it drives the later third of the movie.
It wasn’t even the lobbying—it was the sequence of events that *had* to just fall into place
Your typical Hollywood stretching the limits of “suspension of disbelief”
jennism: And yet, I would argue, if those series of events didn’t occur, as the audience, we would have lost interest
taiche: Yeah, it had to sacrifice certain mundane realities to be a more juicy big-budget episode of “Scandal”
jennism: It’s like those heist movies. It’s impossible in reality to pull off a robbery of that size. Yet it’s so very watchable. Juicy perhaps is the key word
taiche: I could imagine certain moviegoing-types feeling vindicated. And admittedly, I was too.
jennism: An early scene where Elizabeth Sloane meets with a potential gun rights client is the hook. We see her laugh, perhaps a knee jerk reaction to an easy challenge
taiche: The ending still feels a little false… because I think when we were walking out the theater, both of us mentioned I don’t think things would have worked out that way.
jennism: In reality, you mean?
taiche: No, that the reaction to the climactic events in the movie would have then played out in the way they did. I think a major theme we got to see was the drive to win: you don’t need to be emotionally tied to the side you are fighting for to truly play the game
jennism: True, when people change their minds, it’s very slow even if they are presented evidence for why they should change.
taiche: That strategy, manipulation and forming alliances, are still the key.
Speaking of, what did you think of her ragtag group of assistants and supporters?
jennism: Watchable, but obviously not quite real. It’s Hollywood’s interpretation of what a cool firm of lobbyists would be like
taiche: Diverse! They all had equitable screentime it seemed but no one particularly stood out. Even the ones that had more direct involvement in the plot.
jennism: But diversity! Asian Americans represented!
taiche: Every little bit counts haha.
jennism: Sure, there was a moment where a team member turned their back, but it wasn’t clear what their roles were
taiche: Even so, the some that switched sides, weren’t particularly sketched out in depth or of major consequence. They could have been swapped with a fellow colleage
jennism: With the snappy dialogs, some were the butt of jokes, but overall, they were just loyalists to Elizabeth Sloane
taiche: Would you like to be a part of Miss Sloane’s team? Would she be a boss you could work with?
jennism: Well first there’s the issue of being part of a political action committee. To dedicate your life to a cause and have it trampled over and over. And there’s the life/work balance thing. It would have to be a cause that I believe will change my way of life or others close to me. And it would have to a boss that I trusted.
taiche: Remember there are many types of Miss Sloanes out there and they move from one side of an issue to the next. Even in this movie, she starts off as a star at a conservative lobby group. Part of me thinks I could be the mercenary… it’s marketing.
jennism: What’s interesting is that they point out that she would be choosing a failing gun issue
taiche: Which sides presents me with the $$ or the challenge, I think it’s akin the lawyers that move back and forth across the aisle. Like I mentioned earlier: the challenge.
jennism: Which still something I don’t understand with this character—why did she lobby so hard for gun control? It doesn’t make sense. Some unanswered questions around the character
taiche: We aren’t always given the motivations, but it seemed to be more proving that she could beat the other side. I’m trying to recall what was written on the notepad that Mark Strong had.
jennism: See the political drama thriller if you’re a liberal hoping for a truly DRAMATIC change in the government (but certainly don’t use this as a playbook)
taiche: I won’t lie. Many will accuse the movie of liberal gun control advertising disguised as a movie
jennism: Exactly it’s the dream of liberals
taiche: But then again, sometimes you call a spade a spade.
jennism: At times, the movie felt like a gun control advocate’s dream
taiche: See it for a powerhouse performance of Jessica Chastain, as she schemes and battles against political forces trying to turn her life upside down. Stay for a somewhat implausible story that in equal parts topical liberal agenda focused and a twisty thriller.
jennism: And excellent performance from Jessica Chastain as always
taiche: SeeETThere: 7.5/10 lobbyist ducklings. 9 for JC, 6 for the story.
I question how much research was put into the actual political side, but it was nonetheless a fun ride and I was into where Miss Sloane would go next.
jennism: SeeETThere: 8.5/10 lobbyist ducklings and 10 for Jessica Chastain, because I like seeing female actresses in dominant roles
The story? I have no qualms. It’s Hollywood. Perhaps this might point to the fact that I am in favor of gun control. So I am biased. I want to experience this alternative world where liberals, after hard work, can reap their rewards
taiche: Now the key thing is, go out and make a difference in a cause you believe in.
jennism: So See ET There
Willing to bend the rules for her clients, Elizabeth Sloane remains one of the most sought-after lobbyists in Washington, D.C. When asked to help oppose a bill that imposes regulations on firearms, she instead joins a scrappy boutique firm that represents the backers of the law. Her defiant stance and determination to win now makes her the target of powerful new enemies who threaten her career and the people she cares about.
Directors: John Madden
Writers: Jonathan Perera
Stars: Jessica Chastain, Mark Strong, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Alison Pill, Jake Lacy, John Lithgow