Anytime Aaron Sorkin is a part of a movie, who can’t be excited about that. To me, he’s one of the best screenwriters working in Hollywood with his creative mind known for writing The Social Network, Steve Jobs, The West Wing, etc. But now he finally jumps into the director’s chair as he both writes/directs a drama that will have a lot of people who are obsessed with poker have fun with Molly’s Game.
The true story of Molly Bloom (Jessica Chastain), a beautiful, young, Olympic-class skier who ran the world’s most exclusive high-stakes poker game for a decade before being arrested in the middle of the night by 17 FBI agents wielding automatic weapons. Her players included Hollywood royalty, sports stars, business titans and finally, unbeknown to her, the Russian mob. Her only ally was her criminal defense lawyer Charlie Jaffey (Idris Elba), who learned there was much more to Molly than the tabloids led people to believe.
While this wasn’t a perfect first effort behind the camera, Sorkin still does a great job capturing the drama that’s been following our main protagonist and her struggles and success in the last decade. To be excited about Sorkin dialogue is an understatement. Almost all the characters have that moment where it has that quick line reading making you engaged. From the way he structured the story, which is adapted from Bloom’s memoir, it feels like you want to join these underground poker games. And for someone who doesn’t know a single thing about how to gamble, Bloom’s narration telling the audience the basics and strategies for this. The script alone reminded me of The Big Short. Even in her book, she wouldn’t say the real names who were involved in the games. But some will really assume Michael Cera’s Player X character, one of Molly’s regulars, might be based on Ben Affleck or Tobey Maguire. Who knows?
Jessica Chastain has never given a terrible performance. Even in terrible movies like The Huntsman: Winter’s War, she was at least giving the time to actually try with what she’s given. But you can’t see anybody else playing the “Poker Princess” Molly Bloom as she, without a doubt, nailed this role. She really has a lot of power that’s coming towards her along with having the brains, strength, and confidence to truly pull this off. This is the best performance of her career since Zero Dark Thirty.
Elba as her lawyer had good chemistry with his character taking on Bloom’s attorney. He ultimately helps with even though she’s broke and is about the face fail time. Also, he was one of the best monologues in the entire movie that leaves you thinking,”Woah’.
Molly’s Game does have a long runtime clocking in at 140 minutes. To me, it felt unnecessary because the pace of the film is what made me not think it was a great movie. The first half really got me invested very quickly. I knew that this was going to be filled with scenes of dialogue, which is totally fine with Sorkin’s writing, but it feels like some of them could’ve been left out or it needed to pick up the pace. Just didn’t give off a lot of energy, which is a bummer. Besides that, there are a lot of time jumps throughout and it was hard to pinpoint if we’re in the present or past. Granted, a couple of Sorkin’s script is like that. Just difficult to tell.
The stuff that was happening between Molly and her father, played by Kevin Costner, wasn’t that important when it cuts back. Maybe one scene where they’re on a bench and the conversation between them was worth all that time, but it didn’t land for me.
Sadly, it seems like I have to be the odd man out by saying Molly’s Game was only fine for now. It’s not going to be one of the best movies I’ve seen this year and that’s disappointing. But I can’t fault on Sorkin for showing the rise and fall of this talented woman. I’m there for Sorkin’s follow up because you can’t resist his talents.
Molly’s Game is a little underwhelming on my end, but it doesn’t take away from Aaron Sorkin’s directorial debut and a stunning Jessica Chastain performance.