Molly's Game - 2018
Director(s): Aaron Sorkin
Writer(s): Aaron Sorkin (screenplay) / Molly Bloom (book)
Cinematography by: Charlotte Bruus Christensen
Editor(s): Alan Baumgarten, Elliot Graham and Josh Schaeffer
Cast: Jessica Chastain, Idris Elba, Kevin Costner, Michael Cera and Chris O’Dowd
Synopsis: The true story of Molly Bloom, an Olympic-class skier who ran the world's most exclusive high-stakes poker game and became an FBI target (IMDB).
The premise for this movie on paper sounds beyond far-fetched. But when you slap the “based on true events” sticker in front of your movie, every event becomes even more unbelievable (in a good way). Molly Bloom went from one downhill run away from making the Olympic team to running underground poker games filled with celebrities, trust fund babies, CEO’s of tech companies and mobsters. If it wasn’t true you would think to yourself that it was too convenient how it fell in to her lap and she took advantage of the situation.
This is the least Aaron Sorkin-y script Aaron Sorkin has ever written. He is known for his characters almost always speaking in long, extremely eloquent and thought-out conversations in which both parties have the perfect comeback to almost anything thrown their way in a Shakespearian fashion, making points that are bigger that the problem at hand. I enjoy his style, and The Social Network is a great example of that style working beautifully, but in Molly’s Game we rarely see his style shine outside of a few conversations between Jessica Chastain and Idris Elba. What I really disliked about this script was the over-reliance on voice over narration. Chastain tells us 90% of what is happening, what happened and what will happen in the story. It felt like I was hearing an audio book. This could be a “me problem” but I’m a fan of show me don’t tell me, and this movie tells me everything.
This also marks the directorial debut of Aaron Sorkin and he did a decent job at capturing the changing tone of the movie. All the conversation and poker games had a nice flow to them and they kept me engaged. But, where he missed the mark for me was during the action sequences. There is an opening one where she is skiing and there is a sequence where a mobster beats up Molly. Both of these sequences felt clunky and uneven as Sorkin is not yet comfortable behind the camera. I look forward to his next project to see his evolution as a director.
Where this movie truly shines is through Jessica Chastain’s acting in the titular role of Molly Bloom. Chastain continues to prove that she is one of the best actors working today. She made Molly feel like a fully fleshed out character from the very beginning. You could see her confidence growing as she learned the trade and how she manipulated all the players around her was a treat. On the flip side she gave her character a lot of vulnerability as she is fighting against the US government trying to keep her freedom and all the earnings she gained “legally”. Idris Elba as Charlie Jaffey, the lawyer Molly hires to represent her, has some wonderful moments with Chastain as they bounced lines off each other effortlessly in what I called the most Sorkin moments of the movie.
Molly’s Game has an interesting premise, a somewhat unbelievable set of events and a great character, but it still fell short for me. I’m completely aware that it could definitely be a “me problem” with the voice over narration, but it gets to a point that I wanted to scream at the movie, SHOW ME the events instead of telling me them. The bright and shining element in this ok-ish movie is by far Jessica Chastain’s performance and I will go see anything she attaches her name too. Chastain is why I love movies.
Molly’s Game is currently playing in theaters. I would go the VOD route for this one.
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