“Sorkin’s film is a slick affair that chugs along nicely in sprightly fashion…” – Wayward Wolf.
Is she now?
Well I never.
Welcome to another year of film reviews and comment from yours truly. And I’m delighted to report that 2018’s off to a highly entertaining start with Aaron Sorkin’s directorial debut, Molly’s Game.
One of the many great things about the cinematic experience is that it introduces us to stories that are so much larger than life – or at least the lives that most of us ever experience – that you’d struggle to believe that they could ever happen, let alone actually did.
One such story through which we may all vicariously live (for two hours and twenty minutes at least), is that of Molly Bloom, the brains and guile behind an exclusive ultra high-stakes poker game that blossomed under her canny guidance,on both sides of the USA.
The FBi conduct a dawn raid on Molly as she sleeps. Quite why such a heavily armed team of officers is required to apprehend a single unarmed female is not apparent at this stage, but something serious is clearly afoot. We then proceed to back track a little in time. Molly is a determined professional competitive freestyle skier whose life, owing to one bad accident, is about to veer off in directions that she could never even have imagined.
Molly (a terrific turn from Jessica Chastain), is plucked from the relative obscurity of ‘working the tables’ in an exclusive night club, designed to drain the cash from those with sizeable wallets and limitless egos. She therefore finds herself working in an administrative job for a rather obnoxious entrepreneur.
It’s pedestrian work, to say the least, but one of her responsibilities is the running of an exclusive weekly poker game for her new boss and his ‘who’s who of wealthy Los Angeles movers and shakers’ friends.
It’s a steep learning curve for Molly, but a role that she seems to have a natural talent for, absorbing everything with sponge-like efficiency and attention to detail.
Sensing however that her unreasonable employer is readying himself to unfairly swing the axe and dispense with her talents, Molly, confident that she is now sufficiently well versed in all things poker, makes the bold move to go it alone, ‘seizing’ the lucrative weekly card game from her ex-boss in the process.
No longer a smokey back room get-together, Molly’s version of the weekly poker game will dramatically morph into something altogether more glamorous and lucrative for all, hosted in the rather grandiose surrounds of the penthouse apartment of an exclusive Los Angeles hotel. But with all of this new found glitz and glamour will come all manner of problems. Stabbed in the back by one of her customers, Molly’s game quickly moves on to New York, but soon begins to attract players with dubious backgrounds and dangerous connections. And once the unpredictable and unpalatable cocktail of drugs and the mafiosi become involved, things just become way too difficult to sustain and control, leaving Molly’s game to quickly descend into a downward spiral from which it can never recover, leaving Molly to face the music with the authorities.
Sorkin’s film is a slick affair that chugs along nicely in sprightly fashion, a momentum that only really tends to dissipate (probably necessarily), during the film’s protracted scenes of lengthy dialogue between Molly and her lawyer, Charlie Jaffey (Idris Elba).
It should be said that even with the ‘helpful?’ on-screen graphics illustrating exactly what it is that we are apparently watching, I must confess to having been suitably befuddled by much of the card game action, most of which came across as nothing but a confusing flurry of rapid-fire edits of cards, chips, blurred hands and concentrative – bordering on anxious – faces. Admittedly, sitting right at the front of my own particular screening certainly didn’t help me gain any sort of much needed perspective on things.
It goes without saying that a rudimentary appreciation of the game of Poker would have been extremely beneficial here, though not crucial to the general understanding of what was occurring, especially considering much of the card game action, and indeed the narrative of the film in general, is accompanied by Molly’s own clear and concise narration.
Jessica Chastain is absolutely excellent as Molly, Idris Elba convinces as her self-assured lawyer and legal guide, and Kevin Costner is an interesting and on balance I’d say successful piece of casting, portraying Molly’s father, Larry, a man that Molly has spent her entire life either rebelling against or trying to impress, yet an emotional chasm is very evident between the pair. As far as Molly is concerned, nothing she does is, or ever has been good enough for her father.
As with any larger than life rise and fall / boom and bust story, we can only ask that it entertains and is executed in such a way as to keep us intrigued from start to finish.
And Molly’s Game does precisely that.