Director: Aaron Sorkin
Starring: Jessica Chastain, Idris Elba, Kevin Costner,
“Sports doesn’t build character, it reveals it”. My high school basketball coach drilled this sentiment into my head, especially when things weren’t going like I had planned them. Molly Bloom was on the verge of punching her ticket to the Winter Olympic Games until an unavoidable disaster sent her plummeting down a hill, severely injuring her in the process, and shattering the chance she had been training for her entire life. If this wasn’t one of those character building moments, I don’t know what is.
Aaron Sorkin tackles this interesting true life story of a would-be Olympic athlete turned organizer of one the world’s most exclusive high stakes poker games with all the wordy flair and verbose film style you might expect from this screenwriter turned director. Starring Jessica Chastain in the pivotal role of Molly Bloom, “Molly’s Game” is a quick witted, fast paced story about the fortitude of a woman who refused to play by the rules.
Molly Bloom (Jessica Chastain) is struggling after her accident on the slopes. She has moved to Los Angeles, sleeping on a friends couch, and works as a waitress at night and an office secretary for a loud mouthed executive named Dean Keith (Jeremy Strong). Dean is pretending his way towards the Hollywood dream, rubbing elbows with high rollers at a high stakes poker match that he organizes in the back room of restaurant. Molly gets roped into Dean’s scheme, though Molly has never been much of a follower and soon starts her own exclusive poker game, bringing the wrath of movie stars, mobsters, and the federal government.
“Molly’s Game” is a jumpy, high energy film that feels more like a heist flick than a drama about greedy poker players and a headstrong yet drug addicted gambling facilitator. The film has a fluctuating timeline that hops throughout three facets of Molly’s life; while this method of editing has a tendency to becoming somewhat confusing, annoyingly so, it also works in giving the story legs.
Mr. Sorkin has consistently displayed his talent as a wordsmith, but his characters are also part of the reason the speeches, the sentimental stories, and the pointed word placed in the perfect position have such power. Molly is provided so many qualities amidst her extensive flaws, she is strong willed, determined, confident, conniving, manipulative, and deceitful. She is the kind of character that could be wholly comfortable strong-arming a power move in a board room or on the gritty streets while still composing herself as an upstanding professional.
Jessica Chastain gives yet another knock-out performance as Mollly; she completely embodies the confidence and compassion of the character, displaying the conviction of a woman who will not be told how to live, how to work, or how to act. Working against Ms. Chastain’s tough character is Idris Elba who plays the respectable attorney that represents Molly. Mr. Elba does a great job of bringing conflict and conviction to Molly’s story, playing the only character who sees through some of the more disreputable qualities that forwarded Molly into the position of power she had. Amidst these two fine performances is also Kevin Costner playing Molly’s psychiatrist father. Costner has one of the best speeches of the film in a uncomfortable yet poignant conversation with his daughter.
This is Aaron Sorkin’s directorial debut; in places, like with the editing decisions and some of the meandering scenes, you can feel the growing pains of a first time director. However, the narrative content is completely suited for Sorkin’s style as a writer, building intriguing characters that are both complicated yet sympathetic. What “Molly’s Game” does best above all is reveal the character that a woman must have amidst the objectification, the barriers, the cheap shots, and the manipulation when fighting in a world controlled by men.
4.00 out of 5.00