Molly’s Game Review – High Stakes For Your Concentration & Focus.
As a teenager in 1999 when Sorkin’s ‘The West Wing’ was sweeping the awards ceremonies, getting amazing reviews and setting the standard for political drama, I was still living in a consistent cycle of ‘Friends’ episodes from my VHS collection that I had self-recorded. I remember giving ‘The West Wing’ a go, and suddenly my thirst for fast-paced, dialogue-heavy drama was born (alongside my crush on Allison Janney). It surprises me therefore that we get Aaron Sorkin’s first ever directorial debut nearly 18 years later and his style and persona is weaved excellently through this film. Idris Elba and Jessica Chastain give superb performances and the story, at times, makes you aspire to have that much confidence and bravado in your future business ventures.
The film is based on the true story of Molly Bloom, who delays her law-school destiny to become a high-stakes poker heiress in Los Angeles and, later, New York. Chastain plays the ageless Molly and is striking as she brings Bloom’s story to the screen over the 130-minute film. Elba plays her lawyer Charlie Jaffey (his great American accent is back) and Kevin Costner plays Molly’s father Larry. The film bounces across multiple timelines and is punctuated by narration from Chastain. The ensemble cast is large, and considering that many of these are supposed to be representing key figures from sports, acting, wealth and finance they fulfil their roles subtly and do not take away from Chastain anchoring the entire story together. It has already received nominations for Chastain and Sorkin at the Golden Globes, and I wouldn’t be surprised if we saw the screenplay receiving a little more attention as the awards season ramps up.
Personally, I enjoyed the film for about the first 90 minutes, and then I found myself checking my watch, I had become a little tired and almost wanted a resolution to her story. I appreciated the cinematography, including the accurate reflection of time and the pace of the narrative felt right and kept me hooked for a majority of the film..so why was I tired? I found Michael Cera’s character a little nondescript (referred to as only Player X) and with further reading, you wonder if his character was meant to be Tobey Maguire and I now question if Sorkin had approached Maguire it would have been a great cameo. Bill Camp, Brian d’Arcy James and Chris O’Dowd make strong appearances as key poker players in Molly’s story and each of them with their own great twist in the narrative – so these weren’t the problem either.
As I was reflecting on the great small parts played by these great actors, that’s where I finally realised what this film could be, and why I might have been feeling ‘tired’…it would make a great TV series. Maybe it’s Sorkin’s influence in writing these great characters, or the great actors given the opportunity to bring their characters to life from maybe a few paragraphs in the true story. The key thing that is bugging me is that I wonder if Molly’s Game was a 10 episode Netflix series I would be more invested in her story and understand more about her motivations to get there. It would also give me a great opportunity to get to know those ensemble characters better.
I’d recommend going to see this, it might not teach you much about poker terminology but it should reignite (or help you discover) your love for Sorkin once more.
Not quite a flop, but certainly there are high stakes for your concentration and focus.