Molly's Game is a crime drama film written and directed by Aaron Sorkin and is based on the memoir Molly's Game: From Hollywood's Elite to Wall Street's Billionaire Boys Club, My High-Stakes Adventure in the World of Underground Poker by Molly Bloom. It stars Jessica Chastain, Idris Elba, Kevin Costner, Michael Cera, Brian d'Arcy James, Chris O'Dowd, Bill Camp, Graham Greene, Claire Rankin, Joe Keery, and Jeremy Strong.
The Story/The Direction:
The film is about Molly Bloom (Chastain) and her coordination of legal poker games that the rich and famous played in Los Angeles and New York for nearly a decade. She becomes the target of an FBI investigation because members of the Russian mob participated in the games as well. As she faces federal charges, she must convince moral lawyer Charlie Jaffey (Elba) to defend her.
Sorkin, in his directional debut, tells this already interesting story with great prowess thanks to his already known writing ability. He is the writer behind the television series The West Wing and the films The Social Network, Moneyball, A Few Good Men, Charlie Wilson’s War, and Steve Jobs to say a few. Through his work, he is able to tell the stories of people with extraordinary tales to tell and Molly’s is no different. His trademark technique is rapid-fire dialogue plus extended monologues and this film has all of that. The film is 140 minutes and each moment is just as interesting as the previous one. Sorkin’s writing is first-rate as he keeps the somewhat complex narrative interesting. He is also able to keep the somewhat complicated game of Texas hold 'em simplified enough for non-players to understand through quick cuts and fast dialogue. As most players know, it is a game of skill and not luck in comparison to a lot of other gambling games. There is some luck involved as the film shows but there is also a lot of skill. Sorkin’s writing exemplifies that concept as he is a skilled writer but he is lucky to have such a great character to write about and also someone fantastic to play her.
Molly is perhaps one of Sorkin’s best characters yet to be put on screen and that is only a piece of the puzzle. There is a reason why the real Molly Bloom asked Sorkin to get Chastain to play her. She is unsurprisingly absolutely fantastic as her as she takes the “Poker Princess” and makes her a Poker Queen. This person has gone through a lot to go from a potential Olympic skier to running the most exclusive poker games that James Bond wish he could play at. She has had a troubled childhood thanks to her father, played wonderfully by Costner. She claws her way to the top even when there are multiple men saying she is replaceable. The film focuses on this struggle shows how women have constantly been looked down upon. This movie shows her constantly turning down men when they try to advance with her either on a professional level or personal level. The only personal relationship that is shown the one with her father to show women do not need a man to be successful. Honestly, the men in this film are on the side both in the story and in acting. Cera is able to provide a dark version of a known but unnamed actor. While being an apparent amalgamation of several people, Sorkin does give hints to he is more likely to be. Elba and Costner are both great as the only two men who are able to keep up with Molly. While the majority of this film is the Chastain show, their interactions with each other are fantastic and there should be more of them. However, at the end of the day, this is the Chastain show. She is in full control of Molly who is immensely intelligent and is able to discuss the law with Jaffey and psychology with her father. She’s not a superhero in the truest sense but her greatest weapon is her intelligence. She not only holds multiple men in the palm of her hand but she is outsmarting them and doing it legally.
However, what makes Molly even more fantastic is that she is not perfect. She may have millions of dollars and connections to the biggest names in sports and film but she does not have it all. She has a complex relationship with her father that culminates in a very touching scene on a park bench. While her specific actions may be more extravagant, she does the same things a lot of people, men and women, do, she falls down, sometimes literally and has to pick herself back up each time. While she is a felon and her exact actions should not be replicated, her work ethic should.
As great as Sorkin’s writing was, there are still a few moments that could have been better. There are a few moments that are told to the audience instead of being shown. For example, Molly takes a lot of drugs but it is never shown that it did anything negative until she says that it did. In addition, the timeline of the film is a little muddy as it apparently takes places over years but there’s no real indication of that. The film also goes between the present and the past fairly quickly with no real connection between to the two aside from it simply presenting the story in a non-linear fashion. There are also some details of the games that are fabricated for the plot such as the house can’t just decide to take part of the pot in the middle of the game.
These flaws can be easily overlooked as the film is brilliant to experience. The story and writing are invigorating and the performances are fantastic. Chastain’s performance is worth a nomination if not an award for her performance. While it won’t win Best Picture, it could also gain a nomination for Best Editing and also Best Adapted Screenplay for Sorkin. This amazing film is among 2017’s top films and is worth seeing in theatres and then again buying when it is released on Blu-ray.
Rating: 4.5/5.0 bowties
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