TL;DR – Exploring the interplay of power and greed, and how lives can change in an instant, also you got Aaron Sorkin walk and talks, so what’s not to like?
Score – 3.5 out of 5 stars
Post-Credit Scene – No
Today is an interesting week because we are looking at a film that is both from a first-time director but also one of the industries long-time greats, Aaron Sorkin. So today we will see if his walk and talk dialogue works when he is the one behind the camera? Now before we start, because of the way the film is structured it is hard to talk about it at all without getting into [SPOILER] territory almost immediately, so if you have not seen the film probably be careful when proceeding.
So to set the scene, Molly Bloom (Jessica Chastain) comes from a very competitive family, and no matter what she chose, her family, epically her father Larry (Kevin Costner), expected her to achieve. For Molly, it was the moguls a downhill skiing sport. Molly was so good that she made it all the way to the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City when tragedy struck. She hit a hidden branch that was on the track, it was a freak accident that could have happened to anyone, but it ruined her competitive career. It is here where the story gets a bit more complex. Because we are seeing snippets of her life as a child growing up, the story of how she came to run the underground poker game in Los Angeles with Dean Keith (Jeremy Strong) and Player X (Michael Cera), and finally her preparing to defend herself from charges in New York by seeking out the help of Charlie Jaffey (Idris Elba).
This chopped up structure would normally get annoying with all the chopping and changing but here they make it work because it is presented as Molly telling her story to Charlie. So in this, the jumps in time don’t feel forced, but rather they flow like you were having a conversation about your life with someone. All of this is made better by really solid performances from all of the cast, nobody is phoning in performances when they could have easily done. I thought this was a really interesting turn for Michael Cera playing someone who is charismatic, and also just a deeply unpleasant person. Idris Elba gets to give a great performance, and if you need someone to make a rousing speech, there is literally no better person working in Hollywood at the moment to do it. Jessica Chastain is, of course, fantastic in the film, Molly is such an interesting person with her life and story, and Jessica brought every nuance to the screen. Together both Jessica and Idris have an amazing rapport and some of the best back and forth dialogue I have seen in a while.
One of the things I found fascinating about the film is how it highlighted about how lives can change in a moment, with a single conversation entire businesses can fail. So with Molly, there were these moments that changed her life forever, like when she is fired by Dean because they players were liking her more than him. So what did she do, she set up her own game invited everyone along and in one sentence cut Dean out of his own game. Which was fine until it happened to her, with Player X doing the same same thing to Molly after she confronted him about some, well at best they were ethical issues, at worst it was out and out cheating.
The other key theme was that of power and integrity, and how things are different for Molly than some of the other people in the movie. So much about this film is how characters use and in some cases abuse power to get what they want. The Federal Government confiscating all of Molly’s money and then using it to back her into a corner to make a deal. Player X trying to limit Molly’s ability to make a living from the game and then taking it away from her when she wouldn’t play his game. The mob trying to take her game away because she was doing a better job than they were. The key thing that throughout all of this Molly’s main focus is not on revenge or scoring points, but to keep the integrity of her and her players.
Why are these things happening, we for a lot of reasons, but one of the clear ones is that she is a woman jumping into a field that is usually controlled by men. We see that in the way Dean treated her, placed all the blame on him losing on her taking bribes, and then basically cut her pay to nothing, and she should be grateful for the opportunity. You see it in the way Player X clearly thought less of her because she was a woman which you see in the text message he sent her when he usurped her role. You see it in the way people underestimate her at every turn, indeed Charlie Jaffey might be the only man in the film that was not in some way a bit of a bastard.
In the end, do we recommend Molly’s Game? Yes, we do, it is well acted, well written, great direction, and besides the story being a bit predictable it was still an enjoyable look at someone who is truly fascinating.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of Molly’s Game
Directed by – Aaron Sorkin
Screenplay by – Aaron Sorkin
Based on – Molly’s Game: From Hollywood’s Elite to Wall Street’s Billionaire Boys Club, My High-Stakes Adventure in the World of Underground Poker by Molly Bloom
Music by – Daniel Pemberton
Cinematography by – Charlotte Bruus Christensen
Edited by – Alan Baumgarten, Elliot Graham & Josh Schaeffer
Starring – Jessica Chastain, Idris Elba, Kevin Costner, Michael Cera, Brian d’Arcy James, Chris O’Dowd, J. C. MacKenzie, Bill Camp, Graham Greene, Jeremy Strong, Matthew D. Matteo, Joe Keery, Natalie Krill, Claire Rankin, Madison McKinley & Angela Gots
Rating – Australia: M; Canada: 14A; Germany: na; New Zealand: R; United Kingdom: 15; United States: R