Aaron Sorkin is no stranger to crafting the tales of legends and his new venture is no exception. Having worked on The West Wing, The Social Network, Moneyball and The Newsroom, retelling the true story of the so-called “Poker Princess” Molly Bloom was a natural fit.
From when Molly Bloom was born she was destined for greatness, whether she wanted it or not. Her father (played by Kevin Costner) pushed Molly (Jessica Chastain) and her two brothers to strive for nothing other than perfection. 2nd place simply wasn’t an option. Losing wasn’t a word that registered with the gifted family, never mind uttered in the household.
So, when a freak accident leaves the young, Olympic-class skier in the losing pack, her family leave her behind.
Molly begins to study for a law degree, something her father doesn’t support. In her spare time she works as a cocktail waitress. Here she learns the power of persuasion. Remember, Molly isn’t your average empty-headed bimbo.
She uses her new-found skills to secure a second job as a office assistant. Here she meets Dean Keith (Jeremy Strong). He persuades her to help out with his regular poker games and before she knows it Molly is embroiled in a game of high-stakes poker for the Hollywood elite, businessmen and professional card sharps.
When it becomes obviously that Dean is about to oust her and keep all the profits to himself, Molly scarpers. She sets up by herself and ends up running what later becomes known as the world’s most exclusive high-stakes poker game for a decade.
She doesn’t need to call in the heavies to settle debts, the players respect her. Well, for a time at least. Eventually Molly flies too close to the sun and gets greedy. It was only a matter of time before the FBI came knocking with roster of Hollywood royalty, sports stars, business titans and unbeknown to Molly, Russian mobsters.
Molly is looking at a lifetime in prison for countless charges of aiding and abetting the Russian mafia. Her only shot at freedom is criminal defense lawyer Charlie Jaffey (Idris Elba), who is less than keen to take on the tabloid’s “Poker Princess”.
Over time Jaffrey discovers that there’s more to Molly than meets the eye and the battle for her freedom begins.
Jessica Chastain is just phenomenal in Molly’s Game. I would say that it’s her best performance to date. She demands your attention from the get-go and doesn’t loosen her grip at any point.
Kevin Costner gives a memorable performance, having taken a back seat in his acting over the years.
It’s also refreshing to see Michael Cera play something other than a squeaky-clean goody two shoes. While Sorkin has is adamant that “Player X” isn’t inspired by anyone in particular man, the character has been repeatedly described as having been inspired by Toby Maguire.
Idris Elba is fantastic as always. Watch out for his speech scene. It will give you chills.
Simon Brew sums up Molly’s Game perfectly.
My two criticisms of Molly’s Game is that you’re very aware that it’s based on the 2014 memoir and there are times when the flashbacks and narration become tedious, especially in the final scenes. The graphics, although needed to explain the poker games, do take you out of the moment, and for a betting virgin like myself, leave you feel rather dazed and confused.
By Ruth Walker