Film Facts: Sloane, Manchester and More
Miss Sloane follows the career of a high-powered lawyer who switches clients in the midst of a gun lobby controversy. High-powered lawyers do not like to be referred to as high-powered.
Under the direction of John Madden (Shakespeare in Love) and with Jessica Chastain locked into an amazing acting groove Miss Sloane bursts forth with an acerbic critique of the way politics and money determine the winner in any contest.
Miss Sloane has an amazing script that shows an ability to lacerate idealism. It’s got the touch and feel of Paddy Chayefsky (best known for writing the Oscar® winning Network). Jonathan Perera in his first produced script has delivered a sardonic experience with a constant barrage of piecing dialogue. Miss Sloane is one of those films that get away with dark comedy cloaked in drama.
Corrupt senators, ambitious lobbyists and secretive operators with NSA credits get equal time as Chastain confronts the very people she once worked for. If any of the plot twists seem unnecessary it’s one that revolves around Sloane’s relation to a male escort who seems chiseled from the lead character in Midnight Cowboy. Lending superlative co-starring performances are John Lithgow, Alison Pill, Mark Strong and Gugu Mbatha-Raw, the latter providing the film’s most startling moment when she almost becomes a victim of the gun laws she’s fighting to overturn.
I never laughed out loud during Office Christmas Party because everything in the film that was supposed to be funny was actually more like a documentary on how to get royally fucked up. Every holiday season sees a couple of R-rated comedies. Last year it was Sisters and The Night Before, this year it’s OCP and Why Him? (scheduled for December 23).
Jason Bateman, Olivia Munn, T.J. Miller, Jennifer Aniston, Rob Corddry, Randall Park, Courtney B. Vance and Kate McKinnon all take turns doing their shtick as part of an ensemble cast. Basically a bunch of corporate computer types let their hair down in a Chicago high-rise office party where debauchery leads to more partying. One highlight has a chicken race with cars attempting to jump the raised Grand Street Bridge.
Serious adult fare flourishes with Kenneth Lonergan’s Manchester by the Sea. When his brother dies a working class Boston apartment maintenance man (Casey Affleck) finds himself returning into his former hometown where he’s given charge of his teenage nephew (Lucas Hedges). Kyle Chandler and Michelle Williams co-star. After watching MBTS you definitely don’t want to go home again.
Kitchen sink reality mixed with New England accents drives the drama, which flashes between past events and the current relation of Affleck with Hedges. The characters on display are normal people who’ve had their personalities forged in the fires of past tragedies. Affleck in particular oscillates between suppressing his pent up anger to being an acceptable role model for his ward. Affleck gets into at least two bar fights over the course of the film.
Lonergan has only directed three films, which includes the 2000 release You Can Count on Me and Margaret (made in 2005 but not released until 2011). Also a successful playwright Lonergan is able to write characters that live with a profound sense of the events that shape them.
Manchester by the Sea currently unwinds in an exclusive engagement at the River Oaks Theatre.