Win or lose, it’s always a good time.
Molly Bloom (Jessica Chastain) was on-track to become one of the best skier in the Olympics when a tragic incident ended her career in one fell swoop. Young, talented, smart, and without any sense of what to do with the rest of her life, Molly moves to L.A. where she begins working for some awful talent-agent (Jeremy Strong), who demands a lot of her, but also allows her to help out with his high-stakes poker games that he uses to hop-knob with all of the Hollywood Elites. Eventually, Molly starts becoming more and more of a regular at these games, learning the people, getting to know them, their skills, the tricks, the trades, the rules, and most of all, the lay of the land and how to run your own successful poker-table. It’s what gives Molly the grand idea: Start her own. And it works. She soon becomes so recognized for these games that, after awhile, the FBI catches on and it’s now up to her lawyer (Idris Elba) to come in and hopefully save the day. But the issue is: Just who are these Hollywood Elites that Molly got to know so damn well?
That’s the kicker: She won’t tell.
It’s odd that it took Aaron Sorkin this long to direct one of his own scripts and well, Molly’s Game shows us why. Sure, it’s got everything that you could possibly want and need from a Sorkin movie – snappy dialogue, humor, drama, cheesiness, solid performances, and a zippy pace. But it’s also 140 minutes, which makes it total and complete overkill of what we know and are able to handle from a Sorkin production.
Sometimes, especially in the case here, we just need that middleman to help the audience handle what Sorkin’s putting to the paper, and it’s why all of his previous movies, are so damn good. Whichever director was handling it (whether it was David Fincher, Rob Reiner, or hell, even Bennett Miller), they knew what they were working with, what worked, what didn’t, what needed to be cut-down, and what made sense in the long-run. Those directors helped give us some of Sorkin’s best bits of writing because, well, they were tight and constrained.
In Molly’s Game, there is no constraint, and that’s both amazing and annoying.
It’s amazing because a lot of what’s in Molly’s Game isn’t just enjoyable, but it’s downright exciting. As a directorial-debut, Sorkin shows a great pizzazz when it comes to keeping this movie ever so quick, almost to the point of where it seems like he’s skimming the surface. But he really isn’t – he’s informing us of what matters in these games, what the stakes are, who the characters are that matter, why they matter, what their backgrounds are, etc. It’s a lot to take in and the movie could have easily been a lot, lot longer, but thankfully, it isn’t and even at 140 minutes, it can zip by and entertain.
That said, there is still so much here that feels and seems like overkill that it, yes, could have easily been cut down to size and yes, actually helped the movie out. But because it’s Sorkin directing his own script, he has no constraint and is practically pleasing himself. There are bits and pieces where you can tell that some stuff should have been cut-out, and other cases where you’re almost too entertained to care, but more than not, it’s just a lot.
Like really a lot.
But still, inside of the movie, lies a couple of great performances that help keep this movie interesting and most of all, watchable. And it helps because with Sorkin’s dialogue, you need actors that can handle it all; one of the main reasons why the Newsroom didn’t always work was because some actors knew what they were doing, and others, didn’t. In Molly’s Game case, everyone shows up to the table, ready to play and can handle themselves.
Most especially, Jessica Chastain herself as Molly Bloom, a person who’s perfect to be subject of a Sorkin film. Why? She loves excess, she loves living a fast-style, and most importantly, she has a billion-and-a-half flaws, yet, hides them so well with the snap of her tongue, you won’t ever notice. In this role as the sassy, but smart woman, Chastian gives a ferocious performance that reminded me a lot of her performance from last year’s Miss Sloane, but here, there’s more to her than just pure nastiness and cynicism. Once you get to the core of this character, you realize that she’s just a sad, rather lonely girl who wanted all sorts of fame, fortune, and a pat on her back from her daddy and she got it all, but it came at a price.
It’s a great performance that feels like another amazing showing for Chastain.
It’s also great to see others work well with Sorkin’s writing, that you probably wouldn’t expect. Idris Elba is quite solid in the role as Molly’s conflicted lawyer who doesn’t really want to represent her, but also can’t help; Kevin Costner shows up every once and awhile as her demanding and rather strict-father, but has a nice couple of scenes where he chills out with her and shows his true heart; Chris O’Dowd’s shady character shows up halfway through and, unfortunately, feels like filler; Bill Camp’s little bit by the end of the first-act, shows us everything that the man does so well; and Michael Cera, as “Player X”, proves that he can be an a-hole, but a rather intimidating one, despite looking and sounding like he’s 12-years-old,
Sort of like the person his character is meant to be portraying. And I’ll leave it at that.
Consensus: Quick, snappy, well-acted, and more entertaining than it has any right to be, Molly’s Game is an impressive showing for Sorkin, who’s pulling double-duty, but at 140 minutes, also feels like all filler, but no real killer.
7 / 10
Photos Courtesy of: STXfilms