The true story of Molly Bloom (Jessica Chastain), an Olympic-class skier who ran the world's most exclusive high-stakes poker game and became an FBI target.
Review by Louise Keller:
Dialogue rich with an exposition that flies as fast as a bullet train, Molly's Game is a wild tale. It's a ripper of a story; the film is sophisticated and intelligent with a sensational performance from Jessica Chastain. In his directing debut, screenwriter Aaron Sorkin, whose Oscar win for The Social Network in 2010 left no doubt about his eloquence and way with words, shows his superb storytelling ability, using a 'more is more' approach. This reinforces the speed and high-flying nature of the action in the world of high-stakes poker games in which we become embroiled. Chastain has an innate ability to morph into her characters, and here she is the whole package as she embodies a strong woman determined to win on her own terms.
Based on a true story from a book by Molly Bloom, Sorkin's screenplay about a former ski-champion who makes an unexpected foray into running high stake poker games for the rich and famous is ultra dense. There is so much happening all at once, it is easy to miss bits here and there. Chastain's compellingly delivered non-stop voiceover narration adds a beguiling personal element as we watch Molly's dizzying rise to a position of power and glamour.
The 140 minute running time flies and concentration is required to keep abreast of the detail. One thing is clear - from flashbacks with Molly's psychologist father Larry Bloom (Kevin Costner in one of his best performances), she was brought up to be tough. She professes to trust no-one, nor have any heroes. She believes that if she achieves all she sets out to achieve, she will become her own hero. 'Don't look down, or that's where you'll go,' her father tells her her during her drama-filled skiing career.
In the glamour-filled surreal world of poker, where the players include celebrities, film stars, shady businessmen and the Russian mafia, Chastain dons a wardrobe to die for. Molly is the IT girl and the one who everyone desires, but relationships and sex play no part in the story. She is single mindedly in pursuit of power and money and becoming the winner she aspires to be. The poker games themselves are fascinating and we learn about the characters of the players through specific games and how they buckle under pressure. Watch for Chris O'Dowd as the laid-back Irish player who has a tendency to stop a conversation mid sentence; he is very funny. All the cast is excellent, with mention to Michael Cera as Player X, Brian D'Arcy James as Brad and Jeremy Strong as Dean.
But most of the emphasis is placed on the relationship that Molly forges with lawyer Charlie Jaffey (Idris Elba, excellent), when the FBI is on her tail. Her requirements when asking for recommendations are 'a lawyer who is not even a little bit shady'. Elba, with his handsome features and instant charisma has gravitas and credibility; the chemistry between Charlie and Molly zings with integrity.
Ultimately, the film is about integrity, buoyed by its emotionally explosive core and involving the relationship between Molly and her father. The late night scene in Central Park between Costner and Chastain when Charlie gives Molly three years of therapy in three minutes is one you will not forget. This is what the film is really about...Tears rolled down my cheeks - such is the power of the emotions conveyed. This scene acts as the precursor to the all-important resolution - to Molly's game and the film. Highly recommended - see it at least once.
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MOLLY'S GAME (M)
(China/ US/ Canada, 2018)
CAST: Jessica Chastain, Idris Elba, Kevin Costner, Michael Cera, Jeremy Strong, Chris O'Dowd, J.C. MacKenzie, Brian d'Arcy James
PRODUCER: Mark Gordon, Matt Jackson, Amy Pascal
DIRECTOR: Aaron Sorkin
SCRIPT: Aaron Sorkin (based on the book by Molly Bloom)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Charlotte Bruus Christensen
EDITOR: Alan Baumgarten, Elliot Graham, Josh Schaeffer
MUSIC: Daniel Pemberton
PRODUCTION DESIGN: David Wasco
RUNNING TIME: 140 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: EOne Entertainment
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: February 1, 2018