Molly’s Game Review
Molly’s Game is a 2018 drama about the true story of an Olympic-class skier who ran the world’s most exclusive high-stakes poker game and became an FBI target.
Perhaps it was only a matter of time before prolific writer and Academy Award-winner (The Social Network) Aaron Sorkin got up from behind his writer’s desk and took a seat in the director’s chair. Working off the book by Molly Bloom, the “Poker Princess” made famous for coordinating big-money backroom card games for the rich and shady, earning herself a pretty solid fortune before the government stepped in, his debut is one seemed tailor-made for his style. Molly’s Game is, as expected given the talent behind it, a fast-paced, energetic telling of her story that zips along at high speed in top Hollywood fashion.
Molly Bloom (Jessica Chastain) is the daughter of Larry Bloom (Kevin Costner) a psychologist who drives his children to go beyond their potential, raising two boys who are at the top of their class in the world, including skiing. This is also Molly’s dream, and strives to be an Olympian but an accident during the trails ends any hope. This sends her to LA and into the fold of wannabe player Dean Keith (Jeremy Strong), a rather gruff and insulting man who has her waiting him hand and foot and organizing secret poker games with celebrities, sports figures and tycoons. However, when things go sour with him, she makes off with her own game, stealing his players, and going legit, as best she can, though in time swims too far out into deep water and draws attention of the law, needing the services of Charlie Jaffey (Idris Elba), a lawyer who wants only to make things right.
In true Sorkin style, Molly’s Game is a talky, sharply-written labyrinth of colorful characters and to keep up is to pay attention, even if it all comes together easily enough in the end. It positions Molly at the center of a dangerous game, her exceptional organization and business acumen making her not only the best around but highly sought after. The story really isn’t about the surprise of indictment as this is where the film starts, two years after her last game and right after her tell-all book. What it does is walk us back through the origins and how she manages to tweak the skills learned from her domineering father and put them to use in an entirely different avenue. Sorkin is careful to seize on Molly’s brilliance, showcasing her quick-thinking and ability to keep all the plates spinning, going head to head with powerful men all around her who are swayed by her beauty and learn from her intellect.
Sorkin makes a bold choice with how Molly is able to stay on top, using constant narration throughout the film, having Molly talk over much of the story as if reading to us from her own memoir, keeping us all on the same page. It works well, sort of like how Henry Hill did it in Martin Scorsese‘s Goodfellas. Being a Sorkin film, there’s barely a break and catching a breath is hard to come by, but also like a Sorkin film, that’s akin to riding a rollercoaster and is often equally thrilling. Watching the excellent Chastain banter with the likes of Elba, who is as always restrained yet buttery smooth, is incredibly fun, even if at times you won’t even understand all the legalese they sometimes throw at each other. We just know it sounds smart and slick.
Running at a lengthy 140 minutes, the film does become a challenge but it’s hardly a distraction as the movie is populated with endlessly interesting characters, including Micheal Cera as Player X, a menacing actor out for blood, wallowing in the destruction off others. That’s the thing with Molly’s Game, it takes the game of poker and breaks it down in meticulous order while paralleling Molly’s circuitous journey. It’s great fun, even if not all of it meets the mark, and some of it a bit contrived. Well worth a watch.
Molly’s Game Review
Movie description: Molly's Game is a 2018 drama about the true story of an Olympic-class skier who ran the world's most exclusive high-stakes poker game and became an FBI target.
Director(s): Aaron Sorkin
Actor(s): Jessica Chastain, Idris Elba, Kevin Costner