Molly’s Game, rated R
Molly’s Game, based on the true story of Molly Bloom, is a very well-acted and written film but also has some content issues. The film is the directorial debut of Oscar winner Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network) and Sorkin’s screenplay is based on the book 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. The film features the kind of rapid-fire dialogue that Sorkin is known for (The West Wing), and has been nominated for two Golden Globe awards including best screenplay by Sorkin.
The film features a strong cast, led by two-time Oscar nominee Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty, The Help), who portrays Molly Bloom. Chastain has received a Golden Globe nomination for her performance.
Molly was an Olympic-caliber skier who was pushed hard, and raised to be a champion by her father Larry, played by two-time Oscar winner Kevin Costner (Dances with Wolves), who excels in a small role. Molly has a strained relationship with her father. Samantha Isler (Captain Fantastic), does a good job portraying the teenage Molly.
When Molly has a bad accident at a national skiing competition, she is forced to give up her Olympic dreams. Before going to law school, she moves to Los Angeles and gets a job as a cocktail waitress. She then meets an arrogant real estate investor named Dean Keith, played by Jeremy Strong (The Big Short), and he hires her as his personal assistant. One of her responsibilities is coordinating a weekly underground high-stakes poker game at the Cobra Lounge attended by high ranking celebrities, sports figures, businessmen, etc., including “Player X”, portrayed by Michael Cera (Juno), a character that is widely believed to be based on actor Tobey Maguire. As we watch the games, we meet other poker players such as Harlan Eustice, played by Emmy nominee Bill Camp (The Night Of), “Bad Brad”, played by Brian d’Arcy James (Spotlight), and Douglas Downey, played by Chris O’Dowd (The Sapphires).
Poker plays a significant role in this film, and we see Molly learn all aspects of the game. And like all things Molly does, she learns the game well. But eventually, we see Molly split with Dean after he fires her, and start her own game with even higher stakes in Los Angeles. She becomes extremely successful, but Player X takes her games away from her. That doesn’t stop her as she focuses on New York City, where eventually some mobsters join the games. This gets the attention of the FBI, and we see her arrested in the middle of the night by armed FBI agents.
We then see Molly try to persuade New York lawyer Charlie Jaffey, played by Golden Globe winner Idris Elba (Luther), to represent her. The two have excellent chemistry and their scenes together are some of the best in the film. The film also includes Oscar winner Graham Greene (Dances with Wolves) as the likeable Judge Foxman.
Sorkin uses a lot of voice overs and flashbacks (from Molly building her empire, after her arrest by the FBI and her time as a teen). The film features excellent cinematography during the poker games by Charlotte Bruus Christensen. Chastain is confident as Molly, and always looks great in the outfits she wears, thanks to costume designs by Susan Lyall, though most of the outfits result in a large amount of cleavage being displayed. Chastain delivers an Oscar worthy performance.
Content concerns include a significant amount of adult language, including the abuse of God’s and Jesus’ names, and some violence. At two hours and twenty minutes, the film is at least twenty minutes too long however.
Molly’s Game is a very well-acted, written and directed film, based on a true story. It was sad to see how she forfeited all relationships during this time of greed, power and avarice. In the words of Thomas Merton, “People may spend their whole lives climbing the ladder of success only to find, once they reach the top, that the ladder is leaning against the wrong wall.”