Molly’s Game is Aaron Sorkin doing Aaron Sorkin, and after several decades of writing great movies, Sorkin finally tries his hand at directing and it’s clear that he’s made the transition. The film is grippingly entertaining, with all of Sorkin’s well known back-and-forth dialogues and witty characters, and it takes a strong writer/director to make a 140 minute poker movie compelling. Molly’s Game is full of intrigue, great characters, and sharp dialogue, but when it’s emotional conclusions are reached, the film is willing to go deeper and explore some really great familial relationships.
The film follows the true story of Molly Bloom (Jessica Chastain), a former Olympic skier who ended up running a high stakes poker game that would attract movie stars, billionaires, entrepreneurs, and eventually the Russian mafia, which puts Bloom under FBI investigation. Chastain is the best she’s ever been; Molly is convicted, sharp, and dangerously witty, but her resolve and personal ethics make her compelling beyond the persona she puts out. She should gain serious Oscar consideration, as should Idris Elba who’s terrific as a by the books lawyer who’s drawn into Molly’s world and finds himself rooting for Molly to escape persecution.
I enjoyed the quick witted exchanges, the visual storytelling, and the often insightful voiceovers of Molly’s Game, and while the stylistic elements would have been enough to recommend it, there’s an emotional undercurrent to the film that finally reveals itself with a wonderful exchange Molly has with her father, played wonderfully by Kevin Costner. The film is so idiosyncratic and heavy on the details that it needs things like that, and Sorkin offers a welcome amount of heart and humor to turn a wild story into a great film. Grade: A-