Coming in to “Molly’s Game”, I had absolutely no awareness of the film or the true life events its based on, a rare enough occurrence these days but my ignorance quickly turned to bliss thanks to this polished production and an enthralling performance from Jessica Chastain.
Molly Bloom, driven to succeed from a young age by a domineering father and high –achieving siblings, suffers a devastating injury in her late teens, bringing her nascent professional skiing career to an abrupt halt. Seeking direction and purpose, against her parents’ wishes, she decides to postpone college for a year and travels to Los Angeles to see what life brings her. When she lands a job as an assistant to a Hollywood property developer, she soon finds herself involved in illicit, high stakes poker games amongst the rich and powerful Hollywood Elite. Tiring of the shabby treatment of her boss, Molly decides to take control of the game herself.
Marking celebrated screenwriter Aaron Sorkin’s directorial debut, this adaptation of Molly Bloom’s remarkable exploits makes a fine companion piece to “The Wolf Of Wall Street”, giving us yet another glimpse into the lifestyles of the rich and the reckless. What Sorkin lacks in directorial flair, he more than makes up for with his trademark razor-sharp dialogue and a kinetic script which races through the story yet still manages to enunciate every detail clearly and articulately. The glamour and thrill of these high-stakes Poker games, sitting on the very ragged edge of legality, is well realised on screen, even for Poker novices who know little of the game and it’s a clever conceit that sees the film allow us to shadow Molly as she watches and learns, not only the tricks, tells and rules of Poker but also the power politics of the billionaires, tycoons and celebrities who operate in these rarefied circles.
Chastain has never been better, which is saying something, but in Bloom she has a role which allows her to deliver a multi-faceted, multi-layered performance and even in those rare (for Sorkin) dialogue-free moments she absolutely shines. Likewise Idris Elba, who instantaneously establishes an electric onscreen chemistry with Chastain, finally has a dramatic role to match his quality replete with wonderful Sorkin soliloquies and an impish sense of humour to boot. Costner does good work too in a role which sees him actually play a worse father figure than he did as Pa Kent in “Man Of Steel”.
As much a story of a battle of the sexes as it is a crime thriller, “Molly’s Game” delivers a fascinating biographical drama where intelligence trumps inheritance and integrity is something to be prized.