FIRST LOOK: Molly’s Game Review (2017)
|View the Molly’s Game film trailer from the FRESH Movie Trailers YouTube channel here.
Article by guest author Jonathan Wiggins.
Prolific writer Aaron Sorkin has built his career on finding intensely creative ways to explore the fascinating and complicated stories of real-life contemporary figures. He’s done this with The Social Network, Charlie Wilson’s War, and Steve Jobs. But this year, Sorkin has taken on his first female heroine in Molly’s Game, which explores the life and times of the phenomenally savvy woman who went from competing as a skier for the US National Team to running an exclusive high stakes illegal poker den for a decade before being arrested in the middle of the night by the FBI.
Sorkin’s overdue directorial debut is an electrifying adaptation of the titular Molly Bloom’s 2013 memoir of the same name, starring an equally exhilarating Jessica Chastain as Bloom and a compelling Idris Elba as her lawyer. The film has already won a handful of awards in the international circuit ahead of its mainstream premiere on Christmas Day, and is expected to fascinate and intrigue audiences for years to come.
A thrilling hand
The film revolves around the titular Molly Bloom, who suffers a career-stopping accident at a national skiing contest at the beginning of the film. The Hollywood Reporter explains that this life-derailing incident sends her down a drastically different path – which starts with law school ambitions and ultimately ends in pleading guilty to running a high-end illegal gambling ring.
Overloaded with lines and monologues of razor sharp wit (a testament, of course, to Sorkin’s love of the written word), Molly’s Game shows Bloom teaching herself about poker and the vices of rich men, first as an assistant to an arrogant real estate agent and gambling host Dean (Jeremy Strong), and later on by herself, after having cut Dean loose. She saunters through her exclusive gambling den full of the biggest names in Hollywood, riveting and unimpressed, before moving on to higher stakes and clients in New York.
Over there, the buy-in is at $250,000, and the games are twice a day, six days a week. On top of Hollywood A-Listers, her clients included rich Russians and mobsters from the criminal underworld, and as her fortune increased, so did the attentions of the authorities. An illegal gambling den as grand and as lucrative as hers couldn’t be kept a secret for long, Bloom business implodes and she is forced to face the legal consequences of her actions. The storytelling is fast-paced and tight, never failing to entertain, even at two hours long.
As Sorkin’s first-time directorial effort, Molly’s Game is well executed, thrilling, and visually intense. Fluid camera movement, clever cuts, and excellent visualization worked to add nail-biting excitement to what many consider an un-filmable sport, arguably putting Molly’s Game a step ahead of the likes of Rounders (1998) and The Cincinnati Kid (1965), which have been listed by PartyPoker as some of the greatest gambling films of all time. In fact, IndieWire’s David Ehrlich has gone on to suggest that Molly’s Game is “the first great poker movie,” commending Sorkin’s direction, which he finds is much like his writing – crisp, fast, and just a tiny bit too blunt. Chastain’s cool, cynical voiceover makes the film great as a poker procedural. However, it is Bloom’s understanding of her clients, as well as the ebb and flow of the game itself, that makes the film luxuriously entertaining, regardless of whether or not you are a poker fan.
Chastain powers her way through rapid-fire dialogue and monologues, and is a force majeure in a world full of men. She bulldozes through the role with a confidence and energy that is intoxicating to watch. The real-life Molly Bloom told the BBC that she loved Chastain’s extraordinary performance, making the entire experience of watching the film a cathartic and emotional one for Bloom.
Filmmaking, like poker, is a game that all boils down to stakes. In Molly’s Game, Sorkin is finally cashing in his chips, and we’re all excited to see his next thrilling hand.
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