At the heart of Miss Sloane—and a cool heart it is—lies a question. Why does the title character walk out on her lucrative career as one of D.C.’s highest-paid lobbyists to join an underfunded nonprofit in its quixotic attempt at changing some gun laws? The question keeps the movie from falling into the easy do-gooder outline of Erin Brockovich. Elizabeth Sloane (Jessica Chastain, all stiletto-heel precision) might possibly be stirred by a sense of social justice, but she might also just want to win a game that everybody tells her is unwinnable. We’re talking about an alpha female who isn’t content with mere victory—she gives you the impression she also wouldn’t mind hearing the lamentations of women (and men) on the field of battle. It’s crucial to this movie’s crisp watchability that we’re not sure what motivates her battle plan. Maybe battle is just her thing.
Losing track of narrative beats is a terrible sin in expensive screenwriting classes, but not so important to actual movies. Here is a modest demonstration. The plot devices in this sequel are so stale that the movie itself loses interest in them halfway through its dawdling 122 minutes—and this is a good thing. By that time the contrivances of Ol Parker’s script have done their duty, and we can get to the element that turned the film’s 2011 predecessor into a surprise hit: hanging around with a group of witty old pros in a pleasant location. There are many worse reasons for enjoying movies.
In the first Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, a group of elderly British expats in India found themselves warming to the charms of a dilapidated inn. Now the hotel’s hyperactive manager Sonny (Dev Patel, from Slumdog Millionaire) is planning his marriage—and wants to add a second establishment to build his success.