Molly’s Game

Year: 2018
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

 

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Watch This Space: November 9 – 15

Welcome to your weekly go-to film guide – WatchThisSpace – where we recommend what to watch in the cinema and on the television, and remind you of those brilliant films hiding in your DVD collection.

IN THE CINEMA

Here in the UK, we finally get to see what could be one of the best films of the year. Whilst critics are loving ‘Steve Jobs’, box-office figures are surprisingly low and personally, we cannot fathom why. With Danny Boyle at the helm, Aaron Sorkin behind the script and Michael Fassbender in the lead role, this biopic of the late Apple founder should be a great watch.

ON THE TV

Monday 21:00 GMT: Want to watch four friends getting extremely wasted the night before a wedding and then enjoy the hijinks that ensue the day after without the headache? ITV have got your back. I feel like everything that needs to be said about ‘The Hangover’ has probably already been said, so all we can say is WATCH IT! Here’s our review in case you needed any more persuasion.

Wednesday 21:00 GMT: JumpCut UK favourite (and arguably the best actress around right now), Jessica Chastain, stars in the critically acclaimed ‘Zero Dark Thirty’ on Film4. From the director of ‘The Hurt Locker’, Kathryn Bigelow, comes another intense look at the war on terror.

Thursday 21:00 GMT: Although it isn’t very memorable, ‘Iron Man 2’ is always an enjoyable watch. It may not be the greatest Marvel movie, or even the best in the ‘Iron-Man’ series, but it’s worth a watch for Mickey Rourke’s Russian accent alone. It’s Film4 to the rescue once again, making sure you have a super Thursday night.

Saturday 11:00 GMT: Hayao Miyazaki is the go-to-guy when it comes to anime films, and is world renowned for his work with the Studio Ghibli animation company. Among his finest works is the magical, family-friendly ‘My Neighbour Totoro’, which you can catch on Film4. This film has become a cult favourite since its release in 1988, and sits at #127 in the IMDb all time top 250, which should tell you just how brilliant this Saturday morning flick will be. 

Sunday 21:30 GMT: BBC3 may be changing, but hopefully its desire to promote modern British realism will never fade. This Sunday, take a look into the dangerous world of teenage life in London with ‘Kidulthood’, starring the likes of Noel Clarke, Jaime Winstone and Nicholas Hoult.

DIG IT OUT

This is our favourite part of the WatchThisSpace section. We delve into our own DVD collection and pick out some amazing films, that may not instantly spring to mind when you’re stuck for inspiration to make your movie night a success. Maybe you’ve never seen a film that we pick – or even heard of them for that matter – but you’re gonna have to trust us on this one, and Dig It Out.

Her: This is a movie that you really need to get behind. If you’re weirded out by the idea of a human man dating his O.S. (Operating System), then this might not be the film for you. If you can get past the unique plot, ‘Her’ is actually a really good film and an experience like no other. It may be weird, but normal is overrated and I think everybody should try to watch it at least once. DB

Boyhood: When I first heard about this film I gave it a lot of hell; I trolled it, essentially. But when I eventually watched it, I instantly fell in love with it. There isn’t much that actually happens, per se, in ‘Boyhood’, but it’s more about the journey and watching this boy transform into a man. It’s a really cool concept and one that only director, Richard Linklater could pull off. Interesting factoid, Linklater spent 12 years making this six-time Academy Award nominated film. Here’s our review if you want to know more. DB

Titanic: Do you like boats? What about Leonardo DiCaprio? What about Leonardo DiCaprio on a boat? Well then, you’ll probably like ‘Titanic’. Jokes aside, ‘Titanic’ is a truly great movie. Don’t believe me? This James Cameron romantic-drama won a whopping 11 Academy Awards, and still remains the second highest grossing film of all time, 17 years after its release. Impressive, right? DB

Donnie Darko: I honestly don’t know where to start with this film. ‘Donnie Darko’ is my all-time favourite film (I even have a tattoo of the devilish rabbit on my arm). Director Richard Kelly has barely done anything since this 2001 cult hit, but if I was him I would be more than happy with my work. A young Jake Gyllenhaal stars as the titular character, a messed up teen with schizophrenia and an imaginary friend in the form of a giant bunny rabbit who can travel through time. Sounds ridiculous, but this is one of the most engaging, thought-provoking and enigmatic films you will ever see, and it even has a fantastic soundtrack to boot; a must watch for fans of the psychological-thriller genre. JLB

This week’s WatchThisSpace was compiled by Jakob Lewis Barnes and Dalton Brown

Oscars 2016: Best Picture Predictions

Written by Chris Winterbottom

It may be early, but with awards season kicking off, I thought I would share my tips for who will be nominated at the 2016 Academy Awards, which will be held on the 28th February. Last year’s winner of the award for Best Picture, ‘Birdman’, was part of an eight-strong group vying for that prestigious gold statuette, but the category can have up to ten films nominated. With that in mind, I’m predicting a nine horse race, considering the amount of interesting films still to be released before the big night.

And the nominees are…

Steve Jobs

After making the hugely enjoyable ‘Trance’, Danny Boyle is back to courting the big awards with this biopic of the Apple genius Steve Jobs. Michael Fassbender plays the titular character and with supporting actors in Kate Winslet and Jeff Daniels, early reviews have suggested this is the one to watch. Personally, I am looking forward to this immensely; Danny Boyle is one of my favourite filmmakers and with a script penned by Aaron Sorkin, whose other works include the wonderful ‘The Social Network’, this film looks set to be a huge success both financially and critically.

Suffragette

This recent release has seen much of its acclaim directed towards the acting performances; I am sure Carey Mulligan in particular will at least be nominated for Best Actress at the awards ceremony next February. I haven’t seen the film, but with Jennifer Lawrence’s recent essay on sexism in Hollywood, and the regular calls of discontent at the amount of roles for women and the pay they receive when they come along, I feel the Academy will include the film in the Best Picture category to acknowledge female filmmakers’ cries for equality, regardless of its quality.

Sicario

This Denis Villeneuve film is one of my favourites of the year so far. Currently, I would like ‘Sicario’ to win the award for Best Picture, but I haven’t seen the majority of the other potential nominees so it is too early to put fully commit. That said, the film is a brilliant piece of visceral, shocking and tense filmmaking. There may be nominations for its cast too, particularly for Emily Blunt and Benicio del Toro, and Roger Deakins is sure to win the Best Cinematography award for the first time. For now, ‘Sicario’ is an outsider, but we shall see what will happen in the coming months.

Inside Out

This may prove a controversial choice to some, considering no animated film has ever won Best Picture, but the amount of positive reviews for this Disney-Pixar effort may sway Academy voters. This is another film which I am yet to see, and I have to say that it is one of my big film regrets this year. I suspect that ‘Inside Out’ is the animated film most likely to pick up the Best Picture gong in February, but it still remains a big outsider. However, it was not so long ago that the majestic ‘Toy Story 3’ picked up the nomination for Best Picture, with ‘Up’ achieving this feat the year before.

Bridge Of Spies

Steven Spielberg, Tom Hanks and The Cold War? I’m predicting this film will receive the most nominations of all at the 2016 Academy Awards. But I feel this movie will pull an ‘American Hustle’ – receive the most nominations, including Best Picture, but then fail to win anything. Whilst it has a chance in the Best Costume and Best Make Up categories, and maybe some of the technical categories, I just don’t feel like the ‘Bridge Of Spies’ campaign will gain enough momentum.

The Hateful Eight

Tarantino’s last two films, ‘Inglourious Basterds’ (I know it’s spelled wrong) and ‘Django Unchained’ both received Best Picture nominations, and I am certain his latest effort will deliver him another. The film’s official release date is the 8th January 2016 in the USA, which would have made this ineligible, but with a limited release on Christmas Day, I’m confident that ‘The Hateful Eight’ will be nominated. The release date is telling; films with a release date around January and February here in the UK are often the big contenders when it comes to awards. I wouldn’t be surprised if this turned out to be Tarantino’s most financially successful film, even surpassing ‘Django Unchained’, but like his previous couple of movies, I don’t think it’ll win the Best Picture award.

The Revenant

Will Leonardo Di Caprio finally win the elusive Oscar for Best Actor? Many seem to think it’ll be his year, but I think the great man will have to wait at least another year. Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu enjoyed big success at last year’s ceremony with ‘Birdman’, but I think he will receive something of a muted backlash for ‘The Revenant’, at least in terms of its critical reaction. However, The Academy love Inarritu and because of this, I believe the film will be competing for the Best Picture award. More likely though, I think we could see Emmanuel Lubezki pick up another statue for his cinematography work. For those that have seen the trailer, it already looks to be a visually stunning film.

Hail, Caesar!

The Coen Brothers are back with ‘Hail, Caesar!’, a musical-comedy satirising Hollywood. The film has a 1950’s setting, during Hollywood’s golden era, and features a fantastic cast including Scarlett Johansson. This film will be the main competition for Danny Boyle’s ‘Steve Jobs’. It will certainly challenge in terms of the technical awards, like Best Editing, but in my opinion the film will most likely pick the Best Director(s) award. The Coen Brothers are no strangers to award nominations, after the receiving a whole spate of them for ‘No Country For Old Men’, ‘True Grit’ and ‘Inside Llewyn Davis’.

The Danish Girl

I am a big admirer of Tom Hooper, particularly for his work on the underrated ‘The Damned United’. But his rise to the top, in terms of British filmmakers, has come off the back of ‘The Kings Speech’ and ‘Les Miserables’. You only have to look at the poster for this movie to know that this is an unashamed, Oscar-bait project. I don’t feel like this will be much of a success at the Oscars in February, but having said that I didn’t think ‘Gravity’ would either. Sometimes there are surprises, and I am sure Redmayne will receive another Best Actor nomination for his defiant, cross-dressing role, but my gut instinct is that the film will slip under the radar somewhat.

So there you have it – my predictions for the Best Picture category. Of course, this list may well be wrong and even if it is, it does not necessarily represent the year’s best films. I often find that The Academy is completely wrong in its choices; like Christopher Nolan being ignored twice, for ‘Inception’ and ‘Interstellar’. We are talking about an awards ceremony which snubbed ‘Citizen Kane’, after all. But there is no getting around the fact that the Oscars are the most prestigious of awards ceremonies, and I think in 2016 we will see Danny Boyle and his film ‘Steve Jobs’ be the triumphant victor.