Initially, the thought of watching another run-of-the-mill poker film felt very unappealing. Outside of outliers like Rounders and Casino Royale, poker themed films generally result in a rather forgettable experience. That is, until the 2017 release of the crime-drama Molly’s Game. In his directorial debut, award winning screenwriter Aaron Sorkin details the remarkable true story of Molly Bloom, a former Olympic-class skier who was arrested by the FBI for running the most exclusive and high-stakes poker game in the world.
Based on the book of the same name, Molly’s Game begins by introducing us to Molly Bloom (played by Jessica Chastain) moments before the devastating injury that derailed her once promising skiing career. After a massive fall from grace and difficult recovery, Molly decides to forgo law school and moves to L.A., where she begins managing underground poker games for Dean Keith (played by Jeremy Strong), a shady businessman.
As time goes on, Molly grows tired of working for Keith and after being persuaded by Player X, (played by Michael Cera), Molly ventures out on her own, taking all the ‘high-stakes’ players with her and launching her own exclusive, high-stakes poker game. Week after week, the stakes get higher and higher. She was on top of the world, until the Russian mob and FBI got involved.
After the success of films like The Social Network and Moneyball, it was only a matter of time before Aaron Sorkin made his directorial debut. Sorkin most recently won the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay for the 2010 hit The Social Network. A year later, Sorkin was nominated again, this time for Moneyball, but lost to Alexander Payne’s Descendants. To be honest, I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if Sorkin was nominated again for Molly’s Game. The story is excellent, impressively shot and the dialogue was so well written, it brought the best out of everyone involved.
Much like her Academy Award winning performance in Zero Dark Thirty, Jessica Chastain’s gutsy portrayal of Molly Bloom was absolutely magnificent. She really captured the confident, but hectic perfectionist that is Molly. I must say, Molly’s ability to persevere and succeed in a world surrounded by men is inspiring and makes for a great watch.
Much like Chastain, Idris Elba’s portrayal of Bloom’s ethically charming lawyer, Charlie Jaffey, was impressive. His on-screen chemistry with Chastain made for some excellent scenes. Much of the same can be said about Academy Award winner Kevin Costner, who plays Molly’s unforgiving father and former trainer. It almost felt like Costner was channeling his role of Dr. Earl Brooks from the 2007 crime thriller, Mr. Brooks – only without the murderous alter ego.
As for the rest of the cast, I thought Michael Cera, Jeremy Strong, and Chris O’Dowd all did an excellent job in their respective roles. They made each character their own, although I thought the lovable drunk Douglas Downey (O’Dowd) brought the most to the role. Don’t get me wrong, Cera was great but O’Dowd was just better. Who doesn’t love a little comic relief?
Let’s face it, Molly’s Game will never match the level of passion or excitement that a Star Wars or Marvel film can bring to the table, but with Aaron Sorkin behind the wheel and stars like Jessica Chastain and Idris Elba doing what they do best, it’s no wonder Molly’s Game was so entertaining.