By Mark Saldana
Rating: 3.5 (Out of 4 Stars)
To simply say that Molly Bloom has led an interesting life would be quite the understatement. An intelligent and driven woman, Bloom grew up in a household full of successful overachievers. At a young age, Molly would enter the sport of skiing and almost made it to the Olympics. After finishing an undergraduate degree, Molly decides to take a break from school before applying for law school. While in the work force struggling to make a living a golden opportunity comes her way and her life would never be the same. Acclaimed writer Aaron Sorkin adapts Bloom’s story for the big screen and also makes his directorial debut with the film. Molly’s Game is a compelling and fascinating movie that can not only boast great writing by Sorkin, but also a phenomenal performance by Jessica Chastain in the lead role
After suffering a career-ending injury in a skiing competition, Molly Bloom’s future plans have been demolished. Though she has finished college and is seriously considering law school, she decides to take a break and work for a while. After slinging drinks as a cocktail waitress, she manages to score a job as an administrative assistant to a businessman named Dean Keith (Jeremy Strong). Keith would later hire Molly as his game runner for some private and illegal high stakes poker games where big money businessmen and celebrities play. Bloom later branches off on her own, hosting her own poker games, but gets herself in too deep and eventually targeted by the FBI.
Based on Bloom’s book, Molly’s Game: From Hollywood’s Elite to Wall Street’s Billionaire Boys Club, My High-Stakes Adventure in the World of Underground Poker, Aaron Sorkin does a fantastic job of telling Bloom’s story as a writer, but probably needed a more efficient director to take the reigns. Known for his extensive dialogue and verbose nature, Sorkin’s screenplays have worked wonderfully under the leadership of great directors such as David Fincher (The Social Network), Mike Nichols (Charlie Wilson’s War) and Danny Boyle (Steve Jobs). Though Sorkin’s first turn in the director’s chair is pretty damn good, and he succeeds in making a great movie, a more efficient filmmaker would have made some more economic trims in the extensive verbosity of the script, resulting in a tighter film. As his own director, Sorkin’s script comes across as unleashed and a tad too much at times.
Nevertheless, the result really could have been much worse and out of control. As one can tell by my rating of the film, I think the movie works very well, and is definitely one of my favorites for the year. Bloom’s story is already compelling on its own. Sorkin has the skills and dramatic flair to give it a more cinematic boost and gives the actors some outstanding writing to further develop their characters. In addition to Chastain, the cast assembled to back her up is outstanding.
Kevin Costner stars as Dr. Larry Bloom, Molly’s strict and tough psychiatrist father who constantly challenges his children and drives them to become overachievers. Michael Cera finally gives audiences and his fans a truly different role in Player X, a celebrity poker player whose identity remains anonymous under the protection of Bloom. It really is an outstanding and dynamic role for the actor who is best known for portraying awkward and shy characters. The film also stars Brian d’Arcy James, Harlan Eustice, and Chris O’Dowd as some of the other regular poker players and all perform exceptionally.
Idris Elba is absolutely perfect in the role of Charlie Jaffey, Molly Bloom’s attorney who very reluctantly takes her case at first, but would eventually become a staunch defender for her. Both he and Chastain share some amazing scenes together exchanging some intensive Sorkin dialogue and delivering performances that could impress some of the best stage actors. Chastain is also perfectly cast as Molly Bloom, a tough, no-nonsense businesswoman who falls for the spoils of the illegal business and hits rock bottom because of it. It is a fascinating character study of an ambitious woman trying to become successful in a game dominated by men of various types, some of whom are quite dangerous. Chastain has made a successful career for herself portraying various types of strong, driven women and every time she takes on a new character, it is an absolute joy to behold.
And though Sorkin’s directorial debut isn’t a royal flush, it definitely is a successful one. His writing still works well, but probably needed another mind to eliminate its few excesses. Still, I highly recommend Molly’s Game as it is an impressive movie with genuine drama and all of the thrills and that come with intense poker games. I feel that Sorkin could still prove himself as an excellent director with future films, but am not quite sure he can do it with his own writing.