Cast: Jessica Chastain, Idris Elba, Kevin Costner, Michael Cera
Director: Aaron Sorkin
Synopsis from Rotten Tomatoes: Molly’s Game is based on the true story of Molly Bloom, an Olympic-class skier who ran the world’s most exclusive high-stakes poker game for a decade before being arrested in the middle of the night by 17 FBI agents wielding automatic weapons. Her players included Hollywood royalty, sports stars, business titans and finally, unbeknownst to her, the Russian mob. Her only ally was her criminal defense lawyer Charlie Jaffey, who learned that there was much more to Molly than the tabloids led us to believe.
While Aaron Sorkin’s directorial debut has some rough patches, a strong story and great acting from Chastain and Elba carry the film and show great potential of things to come from Sorkin.
When Molly Bloom’s (Chastain) life is turned upside down by her being arrested for running an illegal, high-profile gambling ring, only one person, Charlie Jaffrey (Elba), can help her as she fights for her freedom. Together, they go through Molly’s life of crime and the actions that shaped her leading up to it.
The first thing that stands out in this film is the chemistry between Molly and Charlie. Molly was used to being around strong, smart men based on the relationship with her father Larry (Costner), so seeing her brought back to a state of dependency from a similar male figure is interesting and shows the contrast between the two relationships. Larry was incredibly overbearing to Molly when she was younger, and Molly now holds a level of resentment towards him for it. However, when Charlie asks Molly if he should be just as hard on his daughter as Larry was on Molly, she said that Charlie should be twice as hard. This shows that even though she may not like her father as a person, she appreciates the effort he put into raising her and a similar relationship forms with Charlie. Chastain and Elba do a great job working together through their banter and emotional dialogue and show us that even though they want the same thing for Molly, they have two very different ways of getting her what she needs.
Regarding the structure and dialogue of the film, this is where Sorkin has always done his best work and he shows us once again how talented he is. The film feels very smooth throughout and transitions between past and present very effectively. The dialogue feels just as smooth as the structure and effortlessly switches from life-alternating, hyper dramatic moments of tensions to light-hearted comedic dialogue between Charlie and Molly. Going into this movie, I expected that the film would be set-up in a similar fashion to The Social Network, the project Sorkin won the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay for, and while it may not be as polished as The Social Network, it absolutely displays what Sorkin does best.
Even though the movie is great for much of the time, it is not without its flaws. I felt as though part of the climax was lackluster, as one of the main obstacles that Molly and Charlie disagree on is revealed to be a literal joke. On top of this, I did not care for some of the cinematography in Chastain’s shots. I understand that sex sells and that those shots make the film more marketable, but this is a smart film about smart people, why are these not replaced with smart shots? There were beautiful wide shots of New York City and Los Angeles throughout the film, so the capability was there, it is just the decision-making that won out.
Overall, Molly’s Game has some areas that could have been done better, but it is a thoroughly enjoyable film beautifully acted, brilliantly written, and passionately shot. I am excited for what comes next in Sorkin’s career and what he does with another talented group of actors and actresses in the future.
Overall Score 8/10