Director: Aaron Sorkin
Screenwriter: Aaron Sorkin
Cast: Jessica Chastain, Idris Elba, Kevin Costner, Michael Cera, Brian d’Arcy James, Chris O’Dowd, Bill Camp, Graham Greene, Claire Rankin, Joe Keery, Jeremy Strong
Distributor: STX Films
Rated R| 140 Minutes
Release Date: December 25, 2017
Molly’s Game is terrific in every sense of the word. That is if you can keep up with Aaron Sorkin’s rapid-fire dialogue. But even though it may seem like things are moving at a lightning-fast pace, Jessica Chastain and Idris Elba never miss a beat. Both take command of the screen with their superb performances and excellent chemistry, and with the film rich with Sorkin’s juicy and witty interchanges, there is never a dull moment.
And even if everything is coming at the audience at a dizzying pace, it’s hard to deny that Sorkin’s directorial debut was long overdue. My full review below.
Let’s not stand on ceremony, Sorkin’s chance to direct is a long time coming, especially coming off of films like The Social Network, Moneyball, and Steve Jobs. Each film having real-life characters telling their stories through Sorkin’s voice, and audiences hanging on each and every word. These real-life events have that added effect of being whimsy and far more entertaining had it been told through another storyteller. So with Molly’s Game, we hear Chastain tell Molly Bloom’s life story while weaving in bits about her life at home, her attempt to be an Olympic skier, and how these events lead her to run one of the most notorious underground poker games in the nation.
But there is a little bit more nuance to that. In the film, we see exactly what led her down this path. Molly is driven and fearless. Not once letting anyone push her around. And every chance someone tries to take advantage of her whenever she is doing her job, she finds a way to get the upper hand. But her ambition gets the better of her, and soon she finds herself in over her head when she starts delving into illegal activity.
Sorkin is sure to cover Bloom’s rise up the ladder by showing her at her absolute lowest when she is looking to find her place in the world after suffering a catastrophic injury during the Olympics ski trials. She finds herself working for a real-estate scum bag who treats her like garbage, but wants her to sit in on an unsanctioned poker game and keep track of the money that is flowing in. So she sits in, learns all of the lingo, how the game is played, what the players are ordering, etc. It becomes very apparent that she knows how to play this game without having even played a single hand herself. And that worries her boss, who conveniently fires her for making too much money both at her job and during these underground poker games.
So she takes advantage of the situation, by taking all of her boss’s contacts with her and takes the game to a higher level. But that’s where things start to unravel for her, as soon as she discovers that some people are not only not playing by the rules but breaking federal laws that could have her end up in jail.
But this is so much more than a rise and fall story. At the heart of Molly’s Game is a person who is not only fearless, but wants to cling on to her pride. She is about to be persecuted by the highest court, and in order for her to clear her name, she has to give up so much. It’s something that she doesn’t want to do. But during that process, as she and her lawyer Charlie Chaffey (Elba) try to figure out their legal strategy, she reveals her vulnerabilities. This doesn’t make her weak in any way but sheds light on a person who is real.
One of the most incredible things about Molly’s Game is its ability to never lose its pace or its focus. It doesn’t necessarily hit the ground running, but it sure feels like it with that incredible narration at the start of the film. It is so precise and methodical and even though portions of it have changed and are dramatized, it is hard to believe that the film is based on a true story. It can’t be. There’s just no way. And yet, it is.
While a lot of the film’s strengths come from Sorkin’s script, Chastain and Elba also lift the film with their incredible performances. And there is no build-up, Chastain takes command of the screen by storm. One might even find themselves sitting closer to the screen as they are drawn in by the allure of the character. Likewise with Elba who tries to figure out what Molly’s game is and why she is hiding that one piece of information that will help her through her legal troubles. The back and forth between the two moves at a snapping pace, not once ever giving the audience a chance to take a break. That’s okay because there is so much to take in, and missing one small line is simply an afterthought with all the other amazing come lines that comes after it.
It’s almost unbelievable that there doesn’t feel like there’s a lot going on in Sorkin’s directorial debut, while at the same time, this film has us on the edge of our seats. It engages us even during the not so thrilling parts of the legal system, but then flips the script by throwing us into the deep end of excitement during Bloom’s proficient breakdown of how a poker game is played, and the consequences of falling victim to one of history’s oldest vices. But there exists a story beyond what is shown on screen of a woman who is willing to prove her innocence and keep her name.