Academy Award winning screenwriter Aaron Sorkin, writer of such films as the excellent Steve Jobs, The Social Network, Moneyball, and the acclaimed television series The West Wing tries his hand for the first time at directing a script he adapted titled Molly’s Game. The cast is a stellar ensemble featuring the lovely Jessica Chastain as the titular character, the powerful Idris Elba as the legal council of Molly, a so-called “Poker Princess”, and Kevin Costner as one of his most forceful, abrasive characters in recent memory as the unforgiving father of Molly. Based on a true story adapted for the screen from a book written by the real life Molly Bloom, Molly’s Game is about decisions and the consequences they possess as illegal activities and legal ones begin to mix into a merky pool of uncertainty.
A one time Olympic level skier, Molly Bloom experiences a career ending mistake and suddenly her future, once mapped out, is now unclear. Ultimately she decides to move to L.A. to seek out a career as far removed from her overbearing father as she can get. Trying to maintain enough money for rent she begins to learn about the underground world of celebrity poker games held in secret locations and the buy-ins are a minimum of $10,000 and the price only rises from there. Being the ever present student she pays close attention to the games played and researches everything until she becomes a poker expert herself.
As her intelligence for the game grows so too does her ambition to start a poker ring of her own where she tantalizes the most famous people on the planet to join her poker games where eventually buy-ins reach six figures. Of course this all seems illegal to the outside world including the FBI who raids her home and arrests her on allegations of illegal activity they believe transpired during these secret poker games. Maintaining her innocence she seeks the help of criminal attorney Charlie Jaffey played emphatically by Idris Elba.
The dialogue is as expected, engaging and plentiful as powerful characters clash in legal jargon that would make the uninitiated head spin. This creates some powerful moments of drama especially knowing this to some extent actually happened and lives were in the balance between freedom and ruin. My biggest issue here is that I feel in many ways like I’ve seen a better version of this film that also starred Jessica Chastain titled Ms. Sloane. The stories are different but the approach feels very familiar between them as powerful women must face legal ramifications for the actions they are accused of committing. Through fancy legal footwork consequences are dodged and ducked as loopholes are abused in the interest of self preservation. These stories are very different but the approach feels the same and while both pull it off, Ms. Sloane simply did it first and for me did it better.
This all said, Molly’s Game is engaging and fascinating as a courtroom thriller replete with celebrities, powerful dignitaries, and even the Russian mob begins a relationship of sorts with Molly. Her defense is one of ignorance and her legal representative certainly has an uphill battle to clear her name. As she defends for herself, her final claim to fight is the simple fact that her name is the only one she has and that is everything to her.
Having seen many Oscar worthy films this year already, this one I fear is going to get lost among the crowd. A possible screenwriting nomination is there but beyond this, Molly’s Game is good but not exactly memorable. If Ms. Sloane got zero recognition from the Academy then I don’t see this one making a mark either. I could be wrong of course but I just can’t fathom it. It’s worth the watch, the performances are top notch and the story is impressive but no golden statues in the future for this one in my opinion. This isn’t and shouldn’t be seen as a detriment to the film and should not be looked over come its release this Christmas. I must note that the Academy loves Aaron Sorkin so it’s possible he receives a lot more love than I’m willing to give. Time will tell…
Rated R For: language, drug content and some violence
Genre: Biography, Drama
After Credits Scene: No
Starring: Jessica Chastain, Idris Elba, Kevin Costner, Michael Cera
Directed By: Aaron Sorkin
Out of 5 Nerdskulls
Story: 3.5/ Acting: 4/ Directing: 3.5/ Visuals: 3
OVERALL: 3.5 Nerdskulls
Buy to Own: Yes
Check out the trailer below:
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