Molly’s Game is the story of a former Olympic skiing hopeful who finds her way into hosting her boss’ weekly poker game. The star power, and stakes, at these games are high! Molly begins to understand more about hosting these games, and how to attract new players. The stakes start to increase, and soon she is running the most exclusive poker game in the world.
Based on the novel of the same name, Molly’s Game expands on the book in a few key areas, most notably her person life. We get an understanding of her home life. What it was like to live with her demanding father, and two prodigy-like brothers. We also see how hosting the games started to break her down. These are topics the real Molly Bloom does not cover in her book, and they are welcome additions to the film.
Jessica Chastain absolutely nails her performance as Molly Bloom. Dubbed “The Princess of Poker,” Chastain as Bloom cuts through all the Hollywood tabloid bullshit, and gets to the core of this character. She is highly competitive, driven, and deeply protective when it comes to the lives of her players. However, Bloom is no Mary Sue. She makes mistakes, many of them, and gets herself into serious trouble when she decides to set out on her own. Chastain has been involved in a number of excellent movies, but very few that she has had to carry throughout. She owned the role, and perhaps most importantly when it comes to Sorkin, the script.
Idris Elba plays Bloom’s at first reluctant lawyer. His character however is really a way for the audience to understand how Bloom can be so loyal to her players when she has been abandoned. Elba does have some trouble keeping up with the writing on the page, and his accent is shaky at times. Because of these, Elba’s scenes with Chastain is lacking some of the liveliness of others. Except for one argument and one show stopper speech towards the end, the scenes between Elba and Chastain do fall a little flat.
Besides the performance, the other strength of Molly’s Game is obviously Sorkin’s writing. Starting the film with another memorable prologue, similar to The Social Network, Sorkin immediately sets up the themes, motivations, and characters. From there he takes us on a fast pace look into the underworld of poker and the big money circles Molly orbited. Molly Bloom is perhaps the best female character Sorkin has ever written, as she is constantly sparring with her male counterparts. She is almost always the smartest person in the room, but like her role as poker hostess, knows when she needs to shift her approach to ensure she gets what she wants. There are also some classic Sorkin scenes, such as when Elba finally agrees to represent Molly in the first courtroom scene. This script will tick a lot of boxes come awards show season.
Sorkin also appears to be such a natural behind the camera that you would be forgiven if you didn’t realize this was his directorial debut. Sorkin has taken more of his stylistic approach from David Fincher than Danny Boyle, preferring to have a more lock down, smooth camera approach. However, he indulges in a few on screen graphics, primarily in the opening prologue, that shows some of Boyle’s flashiness rubbed off on Sorkin during their time together on Steve Jobs. Sorkin and his editor also cut Molly’s Game with the same fast pace rhythm of the writing. The movie never seems to slow down, much like Molly’s life.
Michael Cera plays Player X. A big shot Hollywood actor, who attracts high rollers to the poker table because of his star power and skill. He is believed to be a Tobey Maguire stand-in, and although some of his lines are hard to believe coming from his pint sized frame, he really does elevate his game, especially in his scenes with Chastain.
Molly’s Game can be a little repetitive at times, constantly flashing back and forwards from the poker table to the court room. And there is an awkward scene towards the end involving Molly’s dad (Kevin Costner). But for the most part, Molly’s Game is a fresh look at the world of underground poker, with an excellent performance, and a sharply written script.