MOLLY’S GAME review by Patrick Hendrickson – Jessica Chastain is a gambling Queen for Aaron Sorkin

MOLLY’S GAME review by Patrick Hendrickson – Jessica Chastain is a gambling Queen for Aaron Sorkin

MOLLY’S GAME is the directorial debut of veteran screenwriter Aaron Sorkin and it is filled with the fast-paced and engaging dialogue that has become his trademark. Jessica Chastain stars as Molly Bloom, a quick-witted, ambitious, and driven young woman with aspirations of an Olympic Skiing career. This is cut short by several mishaps, and so she ends up restarting her life in L.A. helping to administrate an underground poker game involving several high-profile actors and businessmen. Soon enough Molly starts running her own games with even more high-profile individuals and more than a few shady characters.

The movie is told by shifting from past to present, with the present focus being on Molly’s impending indictment for running illegal poker games, and the past showcasing the path that led her to doing so. It’s an effective way to tell this story because there is a lot more showing than telling. The audience gets to see the start of Molly’s career with anticipation building for the inevitable moment where it all falls apart whilst also getting the anticipation of not knowing how Molly’s legal affairs are going to play out. Idris Elba plays Charlie Jaffey, Molly’s lawyer, who initially wants nothing to do with the case but ends up defending her anyway. Elba’s performance is comedic and manages to stand out despite the overwhelming strength from Chastain’s portrayal of Molly. The two of them have great chemistry together and a lot of genuinely funny dialogue is shared between them. Their back-and-forth is easily the highlight of the production.

Molly’s father Larry Bloom is another major character but one that does not get nearly as much screen-time as Jaffey or Molly. Kevin Costner plays Larry and he does a good job in the role, but sadly Larry Bloom is just not all that likable for the majority of the movie. He pushes Molly to unreasonable heights, which is probably what drove her to have such high ambitions, and their strained relationship makes for some very uncomfortable scenes. This is not necessarily a criticism for the filmmakers because a broken family should be an uncomfortable viewing experience, but it drags the rest of the movie down and ends up becoming fairly depressing. Molly’s entire story becomes depressing by the end of it. The glitz and glamour of her life starts to wear on her, as do the dismal conditions she finds herself in. She’s a strong woman and an enticing character so to see her fall so far is difficult to watch. This speaks volumes about Chastain’s performance and Sorkin’s screenwriting and directing ability.

The film moves quickly and considering the relatively long runtime this is a good thing. The only moments that start to drag are when things get bogged down in a lot of poker terminology without actually explaining a lot of what’s being said. For somebody familiar with poker this would not necessarily be a problem but this can lead to confusion for anyone unfamiliar with the game. These are the more boring parts of MOLLY’S GAME. The production on the whole is nearly as stylish as Molly herself and probably just as hollow as she felt in her lowest moments. The movie mixes a lot of fun moments with some strikingly bleak ones. This shift back and forth plays on the heart very effectively, but it is hard to say if any catharsis is reached at any point in the movie. Nevertheless, MOLLY’S GAME earns a 4/5 overall rating.

MOLLY’S GAME opens December 25th, 2017

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