Based on the true story of Molly Bloom (Jessica Chastain), an Olympic-class skier who ends up running the most-exclusive, high-stakes poker game. The players would include Hollywood celebrities, famous athletes, business titans and finally the Russian mob. Eventually becoming the target of the FBI, Molly’s only ally is her own wits and the criminal defense lawyer (Idris Elba) who realizes she is being unjustly marked for crimes beyond her control.
MOLLY’S GAME is a sharp, fast-paced, intriguing look inside Molly Bloom’s fascinating life experience. Adapted from Molly Bloom’s book, who better to handle such exciting material than screenwriter and first time director Aaron Sorkin. Sorkin steps into the directing role with ease giving his trademark, quick-witted dialogue that we’ve loved from his previously written material from movies like SOCIAL NETWORK, MONEYBALL, and A FEW GOOD MEN, to television series like THE NEWSROOM, SPORTS NIGHT, and THE WEST WING. The quick-pace and clever editing lends to one of the more exciting dramatic films to end the year, proving Sorkin is more than just the words-on-paper guy.
Intelligent, strong, driven, brave, kind – Molly Bloom is mostly a great female role model, other than loving danger a little too much and walking on the edge of legality. For the the most part, she tries to keep her games on the up and up, not taking a portion of the pot. The wealthy players just want to be invited back again and tip generously with their excessive cash. Jessica Chastain plays Molly beautifully in what I think is one of the more commanding performances of the year. Idris Elba is the right kind of talent and presence needed for the lawyer role but is mostly wasted without much to do other than listen and believe in Molly. Kevin Costner delivers another fine understated performance as Molly’s hard-loving father. Michael Cera has a fun part as Player X, the “Hollywood Royalty” who is a staple to “Molly’s Game” and both a pill and a draw for others to come and play with. Once the movie is over, like me, I’m sure many will have to look up who Player X might have been in real life. While Molly is careful not to name names in specific events, her book does mention crossing paths with Tobey Maguire, Leonardo DiCaprio, Ben Affleck, Nelly, and Alex Rodriguez to name a few. And it won’t take any special spidey senses to know who Player X embodies.
MOLLY’S GAME is a fresh, fun, interesting and entertaining ride through secretive, high-stakes poker. As a poker fan, I am pleased to note the accuracy level of some of the intricacies within the game are better than any other captured in film. I really enjoyed how deep they got into the game but also into the details surrounding it.
Unfortunately, for as much fun as I was having through Molly’s journey, the third act is tied up a little too neatly in an obvious way. I’m not referring to what exactly happens to Molly, but how it all plays out to get to the final moments. To progress the story for closure, the action is forced – A father/daughter moment abruptly arrives out of chance and her lawyer gives a couple of grand speeches that are not only out of character but also a little foolish from a professional standpoint. But hey, it’s a nice moment for the audience to realize that perhaps Molly is being victimized and that he’s got her back.
It’s a bit frustrating, because until then, MOLLY’S GAME is a sleek, well-oiled machine. However, in the final moments, I know what the dialogue is going to be and how it’s going to be delivered. Two people arguing with rising tension and a revelational moment, “What’s so important about your name?” The answer, “It’s all I’ve got!” I’ve heard this line and other similar lines before.
My issues don’t take away from MOLLY’S GAME being a really good movie. But it does hinder it from being great. Aaron Sorkin does some wonderful things and proves that he not only can write but also cab direct movies. While the final moments appear to be backed into a writing corner, Sorkin manages to scribble himself out about as good as possible within the limited and less interesting time left in a two hour and twenty minute movie. Still, MOLLY’S GAME is an intriguing, entertaining, and clever piece of real life story-telling worth checking out.