Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Movie with Abe: Molly’s Game

Molly’s Game
Directed by Aaron Sorkin
Released December 25, 2017

Gamblers make for great movie subjects. Their skills are often incredible, with the ability to count cards or calculate the odds to an incredible degree, but that confidence is usually outweighed by a crippling addiction that makes winning the catalyst for more winning and an eventual spiral into cyclical inescapability. What can be just as interesting is a look at those who surround themselves with gamblers and spend nearly every night around hundreds of thousands of dollars but don’t play themselves. They’re just as drawn to the energy and the thrill of winning big, only appearing to be separated by the fact that they’re not physically at the table.

Following an unfortunate injury at the height of her Olympic skiing career, Molly Bloom (Jessica Chastain) gets a low-level job as a personal assistant that quickly leads to her running a high-stakes poker game with many celebrities in attendance for her boss (Jeremy Strong). As Molly researches the game and learns more, she realizes that she can do this all on her own, leading to a solo run and rapid expansion of her business. Eventually, her eagerness and missteps lead the FBI to her doorstep, resulting in her enlisting an honest lawyer (Idris Elba) to make a case that she is hardly the big fish the government seems to think she is.

There’s an excitement that comes with watching Molly’s ascension in this world and her mastery of manipulating her circumstances while ensuring throughout that everything she is doing is legal. The film’s story is hardly told in narrative fashion, jumping from flashbacks to Molly’s childhood and sports career to her beginnings in the industry and then her efforts to escape the justice being brought down on her for failing to stick to her legal principles. Through it all, Molly has a system, and she is determined not to have her role misrepresented even when doing so might save her from jail time.

Chastain is an extremely talented actress who has shown tremendous range in the past decade, and this film allows her to take charge and truly own this real-life character’s cinematic treatment. She is an effective narrator and represents herself strongly in scenes, towering over the rest of the cast, whose standouts include Strong’s nightmare boss, Michael Cera’s confident player, and Brian D’Arcy James’ aptly-named “Bad Brad” who truly has no clue how to play poker. Sorkin is an undeniably excellent writer, and a few of his token speeches appear here, delivered more than adequately by Chastain and Elba. Overall, the structure doesn’t do the film any favors since it paints a not entirely cohesive picture of what happened, and the film’s sentimental moments feel artificial. This is nonetheless a fascinating story and one that comes alive most thanks to Chastain’s commitment.


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