Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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My Review of MOLLY’S GAME

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).

****SPOILER ALERT****
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.”

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My Review of Hidden Figures

hidden-figuresHidden Figures, rated PG
**** 

Hidden Figures is a true, inspirational film that you will love.  It is directed by Theodore Melfi (St. Vincent), and written by Melfi and Allison Schroeder, based on the book by Margot Lee Shetterly.  It tells the story of some key – and hidden – figures in NASA’s efforts to win the space race against the Russians in the early 1960’s. The film features three African-American women, known as “colored computers”, who work for NASA in the Computers Division at the Langley Research Center. The setting is the Mercury Project, the launch of astronaut John Glenn (portrayed by Glenn Powell), into orbit, and his safe return.

Oscar winner (The Help) Octavia Spencer has received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role for her portrayal of Dorothy Vaughan. Dorothy does the work of a group supervisor but is held back from receiving the title, pay and recognition of that position. She experiences racism from her supervisor Vivian Mitchell (Kirsten Dunst, Spider-Man films), who doesn’t believe an African-American woman should be a supervisor.  Janelle Monae (Moonlight) portrays Mary Jackson, an aerospace engineer who has to take her case to court to be allowed to take classes to pursue an advanced degree. She is striving to overcome all of the obstacles on her way to becoming the first female African-American Engineer at NASA. Oscar nominee (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button) Taraji P. Henson portrays Katherine Johnson, an incredible mathematician. She is the only African-American woman working in the Space Task Group. We see her have to fight to have her ideas heard. She has to run across the NASA campus to use the colored ladies restroom and she can’t drink out of the same coffee pot that others in the Space Task Group do. Her performance may be Oscar worthy.

Two-time Oscar winner (Dances with Wolves) Kevin Costner delivers a solid performance as Al Harrison, the head of the Space Task Group.  Mahershala Ali (Moonlight) portrays Jim Johnson, who romantically pursues Katherine, and Golden Globe winner (The Big Bang Theory) Jim Parsons portrays Katherine’s supervisor Paul Stafford, who puts one obstacle after another in Katherine’s ability to do her job.

I really enjoyed the music in the film. The film has received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Original Score – Motion Picture from Hans Zimmer, Pharrell Williams and Benjamin Wallfisch. Williams also served as one of the producers of the film.

There are many instances of faith being displayed in the film (a scene in church, prayer at the dinner table, etc.).  The romance between Jim Johnson and Katherine is lovely, and should be an example to the younger generation, along with the work ethic portrayed and the emphasis on education.  The film shows the racism and the pursuit of civil rights in the country in the early 1960’s. The film also includes some real-life footage of space launches, a speech from President Kennedy, etc.

The film tells the inspirational story of these three brilliant and driven African-American women who battled race and gender biases. It features excellent acting performances and is a refreshing PG-rated film that all can enjoy without worrying about content issues.

Highly recommended!