The Games We Play
Molly's Game is directed and written by Aaron Sorkin and stars Jessica Chastain, Idris Elba, Kevin Costner, Michael Cera, Jeremy Strong, Chris O'Dowd, and Bill Camp. The film is based on the memoir Molly's Game: From Hollywood's Elite to Wall Street's Billionaire Boys Club, My High-Stake Adventure in the World of Underground Poker by Molly Bloom and is the directorial debut of Sorkin.
Molly's Game is absolutely an Aaron Sorkin film, despite mostly missing the walk and talk element that comes with a lot of the rapid fire exchanges between his characters. There might be a few scenes of characters having a conversation while walking down a hallway, but over the span of the film's lengthy 140 minutes, I'd say good luck trying to spot them and point them out as being definitive scenes that anyone would remember once they walk out of the theater.
Despite missing walk and talk, Sorkin shows no slack in his writing for Molly's Game, even going as far as to prove himself a sufficient director of the future, successfully adapting the memoir of Molly Bloom onto the big screen without forgetting any of the crucial details of Bloom's story and also without sacrificing the big picture of Bloom's work for the sake of creating a Hollywood-esque biopic that would more likely bore one to tears (as a lot of biopics are wont to do) instead of keep you hooked from start to finish thanks to razor-sharp dialogue and a story that continuously finds a way to move everything along.
The plot tells the true story of Molly Bloom (Jessica Chastain), a young woman who was once an Olympic-class skier and who successfully ran an underground, high-stakes poker game in Los Angeles and New York for almost a decade. Players in the game included celebrities, athletes, business titans, and even members of the Russian mob. Molly is arrested by the FBI one night, with federal charges being placed against her. Molly's only help in court is lawyer Charlie Jaffey (Idris Elba), who comes to learn that there is more to Molly than meets the eye.
- Unsurprisingly, Sorkin's script carries the load. Chastain and Elba fire back and forth with snappy lines that always have some kind of flare. It never seems as if the two are trying to get to know each other while they're speaking, which is perhaps a good thing for the sake of the plot keeping steady. The only thing that resembles character connection between Molly and Charlie is Molly's interest in Charlie's daughter, who is doing work supposedly assigned by her father, such as reading The Crucible (which Molly quotes to Charlie late in the film). Some lines are humorous and others pack a dramatic punch. The script is just loads of good things, and Sorkin's direction, wherever it's prominent, never gets in the way of his writing.
- Chastain and Elba deliver award worthy performances that might go down as some of their most underrated roles, given that Molly's Game will likely fly under a lot of people's radars. Chastain's Molly is nowhere near the happiest person in the world (smiling is something she does not seem to enjoy doing), but Chastain still shows a glowing enthusiasm for the role as evident in her line deliveries that have as much bite as they do bark. Elba is a lot of the same, and that contributes to why he works so well alongside Chastain.
- The only thing that truly hinders Molly's Game is how it force feeds you some emotional heft, such as in an incredibly muddled scene in which Molly's father Larry (Kevin Costner) makes a surprise visit in New York one night. The two sit on a park bench, and Larry basically tells Molly how much he loves her and that he is really proud of her for all she's done. Why did I not approve of this scene, you ask? Because it does not at all fit the way the film had been treating its characters: showing no signs of moping and playing the "oh woe is me" game, even when it seems that things are looking grim.
All in all, Molly's Game features great performances, strong writing, and an intriguing story that proves to be an impressive directorial debut for Aaron Sorkin. It may not be the most inspirational or uplifting film you'll ever see, but whoever said every good story was all sunshine and rainbows? Molly Bloom went through some hellish things while running her underground poker game, and if we can learn anything from her, it's that going through failure after failure and having your life seem like absolute hell at times can actually be a definition of success.
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