Film Review – Molly’s Game (2017)
In a flurry of movies that came out at the end of December, one of them was Molly’s Game, the directorial debut of famed writer Aaron Sorkin. Boasting top-notch talent in Jessica Chastain and Idris Elba, Molly’s Game just might become an Oscar contender in a variety of categories. The following review will be spoiler free.
Directed By: Aaron Sorkin
Written By: Aaron Sorkin
Following a decorated career as an Olympic skier, Molly Bloom (Chastain) was without a job a purpose. After moving to Los Angeles, Bloom quickly gets caught up in some games of high stakes poker, eventually developing a taste for it. Sensing that she could do great business for herself, Bloom begins setting up her own high stakes poker games in Hollywood and eventually New York. Although her business is legal from the start, she begins to get tied up with the wrong people, leading to the involvement of the FBI.
Broke and out of options, Bloom turns Charlie Jaffey, an honest lawyer that is initially quite skeptical of Bloom.
True stories based on events that involve the excess and white-collar crime seem incredibly titillating to mainstream moviegoers. Whether it’s The Wolf of Wall Street or The Big Short, something about the pursuit of the glamorous strikes a chord with most people, leading to well-received feature films as a result.
This notion certainly makes Molly Bloom’s story perfect for the big screen. Poker mixed with actors, athletes, and business moguls speaks of a life that many would dream of living, making STX Entertainment smart for jumping on the project for distribution.
Funny enough, early on in the film’s development, Molly Bloom herself reached out to Aaron Sorkin even before he was ever hired by the studio. Bloom cited that Sorkin was her favorite writer in Hollywood. Naturally, with such an advance, Sorkin would later accept.
The thought of Molly’s Game became even more intriguing once it was finally announced that Aaron Sorkin would make his directorial debut for the project as well as write it. Any time a great talent in the industry branches out into something new, it’s always fairly exciting. After all, we were all curious to see Jordan Peele direct a thriller after years of sketch comedy. Such developments create much intrigue in cinema and keep things fresh and innovative. At the end of the day, it’s nice to see something different in some capacity.
Jessica Chastain and Idris Elba are Dynamite in Molly’s Game
As you might have imagined, Jessica Chastain and Idris Elba are pretty fantastic in stand out performances. Aaron Sorkin has a way of creating dialogue for his actors that makes them appear unbelievably intelligent, and Molly’s Game is one of the best examples of such an impression. Chastain has a bevy of fast-talking, big-worded speeches that she rattles off with a smirk and style that only she can express. Naturally, she is given a lot to do in the title role of the movie, expressing her inner thoughts through voice over while gliding through elegant rooms in designer dresses. But, she always shows her intelligence and power as the game master.
There’s something mesmerizing about Chastain as Molly Bloom, and it’s not just because she wears revealing clothing throughout most of the movie. She walks with an unmatched swagger and intellect, quickly snapping back at anyone who gawks at her or doesn’t show her the necessary respect. She keeps everything professional until the bitter end.
As for Elba, he has a similar aesthetic to how he operates. He’s a straight shooter, sniffing out any insincere rhetoric very quickly. For all the witty discussion that we get from Chastain, Elba has the longest and most emotional soliloquy of the entire film in what is surely his “Oscar moment.”
Everyone in this movie is unbelievably smart, and you feel smarter too for watching the entire experience unfold.
A Crazy, Real-Life Story Keeps the Intrigue Going
As I alluded to above, it’s certainly a lot of fun to watch monetary excess come to life in film. The setup for Molly’s Game makes you aware that every name except Molly’s is changed, meaning that stars of all walks of life are kept somewhat confidential. But, it makes for a great guessing game throughout the film as you try to decipher who is who.
The fun doesn’t stop there, however. As Molly falls further into this lifestyle, drugs and shady characters begin to enter the picture. Similar to films like Goodfellas where the characters slowly begin to falter around the mounting pressure and stakes of it all (not to mention the illegality of the entire operation), Molly’s Game continues to strive for more like the players raising their bets. The entire way, the film dives deeper into Molly’s character and what makes her tick.
Aaron Sorkin May Still Need to Learn a Thing or Two About Directing
But, you can’t help but feel some missed opportunities with this film that could have made it an all-time hit.
Aaron Sorkin has once again proved why he’s a master writer. His dialogue sizzles in its cadence. It changes in an instant, cutting off abruptly for comedic effect. But, his direction style left a bit to be desired.
Many of the shots that Molly’s Game uses appear very flat and dull, lacking the imagination to match the lyrical dialogue. None of the color ever pops on the screen, leaving everything a bit drab. A change to this deficiency would have accentuated Molly’s glamorous lifestyle to the nth degree. It would have put everything over the top for a truly intoxicating movie experience. Similarly, there isn’t much style to the camera work itself. In a movie with fast-talking, intelligent individuals, watching the camera simply cut back and forth without much variation doesn’t do much to get you excited. Sorkin even uses a slower frame rate in some instances that makes the action appear dated.
As a whole Sorkin’s direction is competent, but it does nothing to dress-up the story. Molly’s Game devolves into the generic in that regard, becoming a film that begins to feel overly long by its ending.
It may be fifteen minutes too long and lack a certain visual style, but Molly’s Game is a well-told film from first time director Aaron Sorkin. The film boasts award-worthy performances from both Jessica Chastain and Idris Elba. It’s highly likely you’ll hear this movie in the discussion once the Academy releases its nominations in a few weeks.
If nothing else, it’s great to hear Aaron Sorkin’s dialogue crackle with every elongated diatribe.
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