Directed by: Aaron Sorkin – Starring: Jessica Chastain, Idris Elba, Kevin Costner, Michael Cera, Jeremy Strong, Chris O’Dowd, Bill Camp
West Wing scribe, Aaron Sorkin, makes his directorial debut with the fact-based drama, Molly’s Game, adapted from the book of the same name, by the tabloid-anointed Poker Princess, Molly Bloom.
Yes, that’s her real name, and she couldn’t be further removed from the Ulysses character. In real life, Bloom had been a champion skier, after overcoming childhood scoliosis. When an accident brought her Olympic ambitions to an abrupt end, she headed to LA, where she ended up getting sucked into the world of high-stakes gambling. She went on to run the most exclusive poker game in the city, before moving her operations to New York.
It was here that her downfall occurred, when she ended up on the FBI’s radar. But until that time, she was mixing with A-List celebrities, society darlings, and both the Russian and Italian mafia, and living an extremely glamorous life.
Even with his wonderful imagination, it is unlikely that even Sorkin could make up this story. Hell, if there wasn’t solid evidence that Bloom had lived this life, you would actually wonder if she herself had fabricated it. However, working with such rich material was surely a dream for him, and he manages to turn Molly into an antihero that you find yourself rooting for. As the games get bigger, and the stakes get higher, you know that the wheels must surely come off, but watching it unfold is fascinating.
Chastain has been nominated for a Golden Globe for her performance in Molly’s Game, and proper order. She does a magnificent job as Molly, whose surface steeliness belies her inner insecurities. Elba plays off her magnificently as her lawyer. The pair have some wonderful scenes together, which make you wonder why we have never seen these two share a screen before now.
Many of the other characters, mainly poker players, aren’t fully fleshed out. This is possibly to avoid law suits, although Bloom did name names in her book, and a quick Google search will indicate just who is who. But to be honest, they are only here to move the plot along. This is Molly’s story, and Chastain’s show, and she totally steals it.
The pacing in this is perfect. It builds momentum nicely, and keeps you on the edge of your seat as Molly’s world unravels. It is also beautifully shot, which is no mean feat when you consider how many scenes take place in just a hotel room, or a bar, where the games are taking place.
A knowledge of poker isn’t a prerequisite to enjoying Molly’s Game. Although there are a lot of scenes of games, the focus is on the inner machinations more so than the winning hand. It feels far less than its plus 2 hour running time, and keeps you engaged until the very end.
Extremely stylish, Molly’s Game backs up its glamour with substance, and the kind of intriguing plot that will leave you scratching your head at how weird and wonderful the world can be.
And I can guarantee you’ll want to look up Molly Bloom as soon as you leave the cinema.
In Cinemas January 1st! See Trailer Below: