Review: Molly’s Game

Director: Aaron Sorkin

Starring: Jessica Chastain, Idris Elba, Kevin Costner

Aaron Sorkin has become one of the most recognizable screenwriters in Hollywood. From his work on films such as The Social Network, Moneyball, and Steve Jobs, to shows like The West Wing, Sorkin has always injected the projects he works on with smart, faced paced dialogue. With Molly’s Game, Sorkin not only acts as screenwriter, but also makes his directorial debut, and it shows, but that in no way hinders the quality of the film.

Based on the book of the same name, Molly’s Game follows the true-life events of Molly Bloom a once aspiring Olympian athlete, who years later, began her rise and fall in orchestrating underground poker games in both Los Angeles and New York City. After her luck runs out, Molly is arrested for the crimes she committed years prior along with the Russian mobsters she allowed at her games. As her impending trial approaches, desperate for help Molly must find a lawyer that will take her case, which she finds from a New York Lawyer named Charlie Jaffey.

Charlie begins to unravel the full story behind Molly’s endeavors, with the film largely focusing on Molly running high stakes poker games, involving extremely wealthy business men, major movie stars, and eventually members of the Russian mob. While this is the major portion of the film, the rest is devoted to flashbacks involving time spent with her father as a child and her upcoming trial.

Jessica Chastain once again gives an incredible performance, and she is at her best when acting against Idris Elba. When both actors are on screen, the film becomes increasingly engaging as the two converse and argue about what is right and wrong in this situation and the best way for Molly to get out of it without serving jail time. Another standout comes from Michael Cera who plays the character Player. When onscreen his character can electrify the scene, and is immensely entertaining to watch him while he’s playing a game at Molly’s table. Cera is not known to take on roles like this, but you’d never be able to tell because he shines in this role.

As strong and engaging as Sorkin’s script is, it does not go unnoticed that this is Sorkin’s first outing as director. Having previously worked with greats such as David Fincher and Danny Boyle, who are masters at bringing scripts like Sorkin’s to life. But with him as director, the film feels by the numbers at times, and certain scenes feel rather unnecessary, and a bit too long reaching nearly two and a half hours. Once Molly’s father appears in the third act, you might wonder, what exactly was the point of this? Though it is emotional, it has no overbearing effect on the later events or the outcome of the film.

Molly’s Game may have a few issues, but these in no way retract from the quality of the film. With a strong script and all around strong performances, Molly’s Game is a great exploration of one woman’s journey from naïve twenty something, to intellectual business woman and is another career best for Jessica Chastain. With this being Aaron Sorkin’s first outing as director, this is a strong debut, that shines through his script and actors’ performances.

Rating: A-