Molly's Game Review
Review by Owen Herman
Molly’s Game marks the directorial debut of Aaron Sorkin, the writer behind films such as Moneyball, The Social Network, Steve Jobs, and A Few Good Men. Adapting the memoir of “poker princess” Molly Bloom, Sorkin has found the perfect home for his fast paced and complex dialogue: the high stakes poker table.
Jessica Chastain plays Molly, a former competitive skier who puts her plans of going to law school on hold to begin running decadent and exclusive poker games for high profile celebrities. What starts out as a legal, but somewhat shady, operation, turns illegal when the money gets too high and the Russian Mob start making appearances at her tables. Chastain has experience delivering tremendous performances as tenacious and highly intelligent women achieving great success in male dominated worlds. Molly Bloom shares similarities with characters such as Maya from Zero Dark Thirty and the titular Miss Sloane, but Chastain manages to draw on these previous experiences without it feeling too familiar, delivering, her best work to date. She is effortlessly commanding with Sorkin’s dialogue style, which is needed because she is given a huge amount to work with. Not only is she ever present on screen, but Chastain also narrates a large portion of the film. At times it can seem a bit much. There is a lot of rapid fire dialogue, often about poker or law, to digest. Although the screenplay is expertly written, the film could have done with more visual storytelling to balance it out.
Idris Elba, Michael Cera, and Chris O’Dowd all give terrific supporting performances alongside Chastain. Elba produces some of his best work as Molly’s lawyer, and handles a juicy monologue or two with ease. Kevin Costner plays Molly’s father and although he himself gives a worthy performance, the interactions between Molly and her father are some of the weakest scenes in the film. The two’s relationship is explored in a rather forced and overly sentimental manner.
To go along with the rapid-fire dialogue is some rapid-fire editing. Fast cuts and on-screen graphics accompany the poker games, resulting in a satisfying slickness and enjoyable intelligence that makes watching the often complex and slow game entertaining - it’s style as substance. The film moves along quickly so you are never bored, but with a 140-minute runtime, still feels about 15 minutes too long. The third act feels a bit message heavy, with the overly sentimental father scenes as well as digs at Wall Street, which felt a bit forced.
Overall Molly’s Game provides a dramatic story told in an enjoyable and engaging way. It is filled to the brim with top level performances and writing, and despite a weaker third act remains a well-crafted true story thriller that entertains.