Directed by: Aaron Sorkin
Starring: Jessica Chastain, Idris Elba, Kevin Costner, Michael Cera, Jeremy Strong
Written by Jessica Peña
Aaron Sorkin’s directorial debut boasts an excellent script that enables a stellar performance from Jessica Chastain. ‘Molly’s Game’ is a calculating, fast-paced film about the woman media outlets dubbed, “The Poker Princess,” Molly Bloom. A former Olympic level prospect, Bloom endured a devastating ski fall in the 2002 Winter Olympics qualifications that led her to rest that dream. Upon moving from Colorado to Los Angeles, she works at a bar, then soon gets offered to work as a secretary for a real estate developer, an arrogant man who refuses to eat “poor people bagels,” when Molly is ordered to fetch him breakfast. Invited to help run his poker games, Molly is enthralled with the slopes of the game and the power to seize her life, getting into deep pockets of legal trouble and an eventual FBI investigation.
Sorkin has penned several iconic personalities into big screen scripts such as Charlie Wilson, Mark Zuckerberg, and Steve Jobs. There’s something captivating when it comes to his approach with his latest subject, Molly Bloom. Sorkin immediately fell in love with how competent and thrilling Bloom’s life story was. Based on the telling autobiographical 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’, Sorkin uses his penmanship to dramatize challenging situations in Bloom’s real life to fit a very smart plotline. The film tells of Bloom’s brushes with A-list actors, studio heads, politicians, and star athletes, as they gathered into her poker games to challenge their luck. From the first poker game with her boss, he clearly disapproves of her dress and it leads her to refresh her wardrobe with the hefty tips she begins to earn from the games. She gets a taste for the entrepreneurship influence and being her own boss. We start to see more dominance in Molly Bloom and she becomes an effective player herself.
Jessica Chastain delivers such a distinct and powerful performance that it completely blows you away. We see her utilize the lovely, but strong force of nature that enabled her past personas from ‘A Most Violent Year’ and ‘Zero Dark Thirty.’ Chastain is infectious as Molly Bloom. Even in a smoky room full of billionaire men playing poker, it is her that demands the most respect. Her role encapsulates a stunning reality to a woman’s perseverance and wit.
The men of the industry, the government, and from her own family, cripple Molly’s personal gain in more ways than one. It’s easy to notice how she’s come so far in her profession driven by the illusion of “power over powerful men,” She doesn’t notice this until the end, though. Thing is, it’s not the sole purpose for her. This is a story about her taking control of her own life. Mistakes come back to haunt you and it’s not always an easy hurdle to get over. From an early life of being pushed too hard by her father, Bloom carries a weight on her that refuses to be seen. The dynamic she has with her estranged father, played respectively by Kevin Costner, plays a huge role in her life. Sorkin writes in aspects of gender politics that make for some good commentary on this. Bloom’s unlikely heroism in the film peeks through in moments of dignity and how true she is to not only the rules of the game, but those of her own.
Idris Elba gives us such a solid and consoling presence. We see him star alongside Chastain as her highly competent, and at first very reluctant, lawyer, Charlie Jaffey. He advises Bloom throughout her entire legal case, never straying away to tell her the realities of her situation. He encourages her to seek vindication with honesty- to be on open book to the feds with information. Nothing in the world, not even her cleared name, would convince Bloom to provide the identities of the big names who sat at her poker tables every week. Chaffey is at first very cautious in meeting her. He assumes she is a definite loss of a case, considering her implications with the Russian mob. His relationship with Bloom becomes confident as they deliver the best lines to the other and begin to establish trust. It makes for some entertaining discourse, thanks to Sorkin’s ability to single out tension and give it a spotlight.
‘Molly’s Game’ is a film that deals a lot with Bloom’s strength and resilience in a way that finishes with redeeming effect. The only disadvantage is its 140 minute runtime. Sometimes you feel as though Sorkin could have cut out a scene or two. It’s nonetheless gripping throughout. Sorkin’s first time feature helming the director’s chair is a solid and clever venture. In an interview, Sorkin himself called the project a “triumphant collaboration.” His dialogue leads its characters to take control completely, especially with Molly’s integrity at stake. Sorkin doesn’t disappoint in his debut. ‘Molly’s Game’ is a film that’s very self aware of its characters with clever plays in dialogue and a hefty payoff.
Jessica’s Rating: 7.5 out of 10