Director: Aaron Sorkin
Cast: Jessica Chastain, Idris Elba, Kevin Costner, Jeremy Strong, Michael Cera, Bill Camp, Chris O’Dowd
Plot: Failed skier, Molly Bloom (Chastain) runs away from her rich life to organise high stakes poker game, a career where she rubs shoulders with the rich, powerful and dangerous.
Jessica Chastain is making a career for herself by playing independent, give-no-shit women. Molly Game’s follows a very Chastain trend of her movies in the last two years: you admire the performance, appreciate the story but something stops it for being particularly entertaining.
Perhaps the biggest issue is that Molly Bloom is interesting, but perhaps not interesting enough for a movie adaptation. The movie opens with Molly Bloom getting arrested by armed police officers and taken to prison for running illegal gambling games. As Molly gets herself a reluctant but sharp attorney, it soon becomes clear that the real reason Molly is being hounded by the police is that they are hoping to get her to rat about some of the dangerous people she knows. The movie plays it vague whether Molly knew or didn’t know that they were bad people. The movie tells the story of how Chastain took the case to court in the hopes of proving her innocence, without giving up the people she helped run games for. It is mildly thrilling to say the least. The upper class family life (Kevin Costner playing lip service), and the skiing past provide little actual plot, rather just being a backdrop for the kind of person Molly Bloom is. As a courtroom drama, it is less entertaining and more moralistically mining the content. Is Molly Bloom a bad person? She has those usual Chastain traits, which likely got the actress the job, resilient and friendless. However, in the final moments, the movie does reflect on perhaps how there is decency in her. Truthfully, these segments of the film are mainly anchored by two bloody good performances. Jessica Chastain is dependably impressive, quietly burning an aura without being showy, until the precise moment it is needed. And when she does finally tear into the script, it is a satisfying climax to the wait. Idris Elba is a fine match for her, his American accent faultless. Where does he find the time for this pictures in between all the other hundreds of films he makes? You expect Elba to cash it in a few times, but rather he gives it his all, never not giving 100 per cent, a true British hero. Yet without these two marvellous actors, you feel that Molly’s Game is merely a by-the-numbers courtroom drama without the kick that it needs.
So this is a movie that becomes more about the flashback sequences. Thankfully, while they are not what the film is truly about, they are extensive. The movie puts decent effort into showing Molly’s journey to the top of the poker-running business. Even when she is a lowly secretary for an arrogant failed real estate agent, she shows strength. She uses the fact that he runs private poker games with some big names (Michael Cera plays himself standing in as an unknown big name actor Molly worked with in real life), to make bigger and better contacts. In no time, she is cutting the real estate agent’s poker games out from under him and setting up her own, fancier deals. It is far more fun watching Chastain work a room of arrogant men, than having her sit restrained in a courtroom. This isn’t just a film for poker experts too. While people who have played poker with get some fun out of the quick terminology and certain hands (poor Bill Camp’s character suffers a poker stand-off that most other players have had at some point in their lives), Sorkin doesn’t leave you in the dark. We learn the lingo and techniques as Bloom does, so her narration fills in the gaps. The most important fact to take on board is how dealers can illegally take a portion of money out of the game, the crucial plot point that gets Chastain into that courtroom in the first place. Other than that simply sit back and enjoy the ride.
Final Verdict: Molly’s Game is a film of two halves and one half is a lot better than the other.