Molly’s Game Blu-ray Review
One of the things that have always impressed me about films that have Texas Hold’Em poker as a key component to the story is how good they can be. CASINO ROYALE used it as a way to nab the villain and ROUNDERS made it a high-stakes affair for its main character. MOLLY’S GAME uses it almost in a similar way where the main character is the villain trapped in a high-stakes affair. It makes for an interesting movie, all the more made impressive by the fact that you’ll rarely be bored during the entire runtime that stretches to nearly two and a half hours.
Through narration, Molly (Chastain) rewinds on her life after we watch her getting nabbed by FBI agents and indicted on illegal gambling with the mafia. We learn that she began carving her own path after spending her precious youth training for the Winter Olympics as a skier. That competition training was forced upon her by an overbearing father. Her form of rebellion against the man who robbed her of her youth is to skip college and find a career in sunny California, even though he never actually sees it. After an unlikely bump in with a real estate mogul as a cocktail waitress in L.A., she becomes his office secretary and unofficial poker game manager.
After fallout with that real estate mogul, and a poker player she becomes close to, she moves to New York to run her own game where the money is bigger and the risks are bigger. During all of this, Molly encounters world renowned athletes, foreign royalty, Hollywood celebrities and billionaires from around the globe. She never seems to pay attention to the gravity of the situation or the people that she’s meeting. She’s more focused on the game and the players she lures in. It shows a specific mechanical drive to Molly. She’s so focused on obtaining success; she never stops to really take it all in. Even the money and power seems secondary as she becomes a workaholic.
Director Aaron Sorkin, who also wrote the screenplay, has had a lengthy history of turning mundane and well-known stories into captivating character portrayals. A lot of Sorkin’s writing involves baring the character’s heart and soul out for all to see, as well as giving them an unspoken relatability. We want to be Molly because of the power she wields and the money she’s making, but we like her because she never lets the success go to her head. She still shows concern for poker players down on their luck and worries about the integrity of a secret underground game as it relates to U.S. law.
I think where MOLLY’S GAME falters is the father subplot. Kevin Costner plays her father who is part coach and part psychiatrist with his daughter. It’s to help bring some legitimacy to the belief that Molly wants to prove she can do anything on her own, but I feel like I would have believed that regardless if her father was a terrible human being or not. There’s also a scene later in the film where the two meet-up for the first time in years, and it feels too much like a dream sequence. I was disappointed to learn as the story progressed that it wasn’t a figment of Molly’s imagination.
MOLLY’S GAME is a fascinating biography, even when it shouldn’t be. Poker isn’t necessarily an exciting game to watch for people who aren’t privy to the card game. But MOLLY’S GAME does a good job establishing the basics of the game to beginners. Sorkin also does a good job of grounding the casino game into the narrative to where it’s not only understandable, but exciting as well. Excitement courses throughout MOLLY’S GAME, thanks to a witty script and magnetic performances surrounding a fascinating woman.
Video: (1080p HD Widescreen 2:39:1) The video quality captures the dimly lit poker rooms and bright city lights magnificently.
Audio: (DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1) I never had to fiddle with the remote because of how well-balanced the audio on this blu-ray is.
Building an Empire (3:03): This is a throwaway feature that could have easily been left off because of how little peeks behind the movie making curtain.