A surprising first time Director Aaron Sorkin debuts with Molly’s Game and manages to direct not only Jessica Chastain but also the legend Kevin Costner. In true Sorkin style the film is dialogue heavy and doesn’t miss a beat. But on the other hand you have a good old story about a poker game and that one moment you get slightly greedy and everything comes crashing down.
Molly’s Game is based on a true story of Olympic freestyle skier Molly Bloom. Despite being told she will never be able to ski from a young age due to her back, Molly managed to be number 4 in North America. However her career was called short once more when she was in a near fatal accident. Avoiding falling into a dark place, she moved to sunny Los Angeles where she collected glasses at a bar at night and was a receptionist and assistant by day.
Molly was asked to assist in helping with her bosses gambling nights and managed to receive some handsome tips. Putting her ideas of becoming a lawyer on hold for one more year Molly was fired and decided to start her own poker night for the exclusive.
When her biggest player Celebrity X, played by Michael Cera, confronter her about raising the stakes, Molly declined only to have him take all her clients and once again came crashing down. But with more determination that ever Molly set up a new poker evening in New York bringing in even higher rollers and a wealth that started to raise concerns.
When one game started to come close to Molly not being able to cover the win, she took a step that then made her a criminal by taking a percentage of the pot. Some years later Molly was arrested by the FBI for illegal gambling and hunted by the Russian Mafia.
Molly played by Jessica Chastain (Miss Sloane, Interstellar and Zero Dark Thirty) leads the cast in a wonderful portrayal of Molly Bloom. Chastain manages to capture the small town country girl come big city hot-shot both mentality and visually. Her transformation is fun to watch and compelling to see how she carries herself but also her confident independence.
What doesn’t work with Chastain is the flashback scenes where she is playing a 24 year old but looks older than her mother. Still Chastain is an exceptional actress and despite her appearance captures what it is to be young and full of ambition.
Along side Chastain is her lawyer, Charlie Jaffey played by Idris Elba (The Mountain Between Us, Thor, Promethius). Elba gives the movie and his character a comedic and whole-hearted feel, which isn’t otherwise seen. He doesn’t come across as a lawyer, he comes across more as a father figure. And at the point where he meets Molly, he can sense something and manages to find it in himself to be that father figure she so desperately needs.
There’s also Kevin Costner (The Bodyguard, Hidden Figures and Batman V Superman) who plays Molly’s Dad, Larry. Costner plays a hard-assed father who is playing head games with his family while constantly analysing, as he’s a Clinical Psychologist. He’s not the perfect father and seems to use that against Molly. Costner holds back his emotions and you can see how calculated he is being.
The film was adapted from Molly Bloom’s book for the big screen by Writer and Director Aaron Sorkin. While this is Sorkin’s first debut as a Director he’s not by any means new to the industry. Having written The Newsroom TV Series, The Social Network and Moneyball; Sorkin has a talent for strong narrative driven stories that capture the audience and fill them not only with a compelling story but also statistics, analysis and a wealth of other information.
Sorkin didn’t hold back from his usual style and absolutely excelled with another well-written film. For him to then have the freedom to bring that script to life is another talent that will no doubt be seeing him Direct a great deal of other films in the near future.
Overall this is a great film to watch though you will need to be prepared if you don’t know that much about poker. There is so much information thrown at you it’s almost too hard to follow. Helped with some onscreen graphics of how games are playing out; the film is so fast paced you’ll forget what you were trying to analyse as you’ve already been moved onto another chunk of information to digest. Fantastic performances and believable onscreen relationships give this compelling and true story a real substance you feel part of. It’s a film for those who enjoy poker, those who enjoy strong independent women and those that enjoy a well-written script.
Review by Jay Cook