Jessica Chastain in Molly's Game

Movie Review: Molly’s Game (2017) *Go All In on Sorkin’s Latest!*

Jessica Chastain in Molly's Game

Aaron Sorkin has written Emmy-winning TV shows (Sports Night, The West Wing, The Newsroom) and Oscar-winning films (Moneyball, The Social Network), but Molly’s Game is the first one of his scripts that he also chose to direct.  What does an Aaron Sorkin-directed film look like?  Well, it’s a lot like his scripts as it turns out.  It’s fast, it’s smart, it’s funny, and it’s brilliant.  Throw in the performance of Jessica Chastain’s career, an astounding true story, and Molly’s Game is one of the best films of 2017.


Jessica Chastain in Molly's Game

Molly Bloom (Chastain) was an Olympic moguls skier, who was left directionless after a career-ending injury.  Moving to Los Angeles before starting law school, Molly fell into the world of high-stakes, underground poker games featuring the famous and elite.  Soon she was running her own games: high-stakes, big money, and everything was going quite well until….well, it wasn’t.  Molly got rolled up in a government RICO sting and was looking at serious prison time, had no funds due to a government seizure of her assets, and is pretty much at the end of her rope when she successfully begs the only ethical attorney (Idris Elba) willing to hear her case to defend her.  In the course of the defense, Molly’s full story comes out, and as strange as that set-up was, the truth is even wilder.

Jessica Chastain in Molly's Game

I have absolutely no idea how I didn’t have any awareness of a story this insane before the trailers for this film began to come out.  Apparently it was covered in the tabloids quite thoroughly, but they don’t really fall into my normal reading stack.  I am an unabashed Sorkinite.  I love his work.  I think he’s the best writer working in any medium today.  His scripts, be they for TV, film, or stage, are fast, unapologetically intelligent, funny, and insightful.  If I could write 1% as well as Sorkin, I would count myself a success.  I had no doubt that the script for Molly’s Game would be strong, but what really surprised me is how little this film feels like a first-time director’s film.  It certainly wasn’t an easy film to take on for your first time behind the camera, but Sorkin nailed it, and has received a Director’s Guild nomination for first-time director for his efforts.

Jessica Chastain and Idris Elba in Molly's Game

As good as the script and direction are, though, this film doesn’t work without the performance of Jessica Chastain’s life, and she is in or narrating 99% of the scenes in the film.  Criminally underrated, Chastain doesn’t get these kind of vehicles as often as some of her peers, but she knocked this out of the park.  Bloom is a very complex person with a deep back story that brought her to Elba’s law office, and the film exposes those layers, covering roughly 15 years of Molly’s life.  There’s nothing simple about her motivations, and the film takes 140 minutes exploring the story, but it’s so engrossing that the run time doesn’t take away from the enjoyment of the film.

Kevin Costner and Jessica Chastain in Molly's Game

Molly’s Game features two outstanding, small supporting roles.  Idris Elba is brilliant as Molly’s reluctant and exasperated lawyer.  Kevin Costner continues to pop up in fantastic supporting roles that eclipse anything he did as a headliner, and as Molly’s father, he’s given one of the best scenes of 2017 with his “3 Years of Therapy in 3 Minutes” toward the film’s completion.

Aaron Sorkin delivers another fantastic script and shows he’s also a legit director.  You add to that, some of the best acting of 2017 and a story that you have to see to believe, and I couldn’t recommend Molly’s Game highly enough.

9.75/10

*Interview with the real Molly Bloom

 

2 thoughts on “Movie Review: Molly’s Game (2017) *Go All In on Sorkin’s Latest!*”

  1. I am so craving this movie. I was going to wait to stream, but my attitude is shifting.

    We need more dramas about actual human beings, or characters who could conceivably be actual humans. Something has to give, or films about real people are going to go the way of black and white. And I’m pretty sure that soon, the big blockbusters will all be directed by the same guy: The Directing Computer. A gigantic computer, sitting in the middle of Hollywood, churning out films that all feel like they were made by the same oily sycophant.

    But so far, dramas, ones that exclusively deal with the subtleties and complexities of human relationships, are safe. The day a computer can churn out The Godfather or Dead Poets Society is the day we can stop worrying about movies, and start worrying about how to defeat our new robot overlords.

    Remember how I used to go on and on about Netflix saving the cinematic medium? I’m going to start to pretend that was actually my evil twin, just to save face. Someone I know and trust actually sat though Bright. No, he is not a masochist, he thought he was doing it for laughs. But there were no laughs. The MacGuffin in the film is a magic wand that everyone wants, that can only be wielded by a special kind of rare individual called a “Bright,” and only if he knows a special spell, along with a special word, or something like that. In other words, virtually no one meets the criteria, so no one could use the wand even if they got ahold of it. And in fact, there are various scenes of villainous characters getting the wand, and trying to use it, and exploding. The original Star Wars would have worked out real well, if the danger to the Death Star had been theoretical.

    But at the end of the movie, it turns out that Will Smith’s character (spoiler) is a Bright, so he uses the wand at the end, and vanquishes evil, or whatever. He is told the special word that he needs in order to use the wand. But the movie simply forgets that you also need a spell. So he is able to use the wand without the spell. The “spell” part was introduced as part of a minor plot machination, earlier in the film, when it was needed.

    Sadly, the twist about Smith being a Bright is ruined at the beginning of the film, when the members of a secret society devoted to stopping the rise of a “Dark Lord” talk about how Smith is the “chosen one.” No joke, the words “chosen one” are used. The secret society is built up into a huge thing, then forgotten halfway through the movie. There is no Dark Lord in the movie, the ritual to bring him back is interrupted by the heroes at the end.

    There is no worldbuilding in the movie, the world is exactly like ours, except there are elves (the rich bad guys) and orcs and whatever, and the use of magic is suppressed by the police. All the technology is the same as in our world, despite the existence of magic.

    It sounds like the film would have been vastly improved if Will Smith’s partner had been a stereotypical Dark Lord from a fantasy novel. “Good Cop, Dark Lord.”

    “What Happened To Monday?” sounds bizarre too. I bet not as many people watch it tho.

    Sorry for the long comment. TLJ has made me wonder about the entire future of film. I cannot believe that Disney is homogenizing Star Wars.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. First. Yes, you were crazy to think Netflix was going to save movies. Second. What Happened to Monday was by far the best of what they turned out last year and Bright was probably the worst movie of 2017. I watched it yesterday coincidentally before I even read your comment and it’s just awful. I have no idea what they were thinking, but Edgerton and Smith are already signed for a sequel so I guess enough people watched the horror show. Smith is burning his goodwill with me and I’ve been really, really patient. Netflix I only resubscribed to for a month to catch up on The Punisher, Travelers (you’d like that), and Peaky Blinders. I only need it twice a year or so to catch up. There’s just not enough THERE there. Plus, when Disney takes its content back, the landscape is going to be pretty bare. They need a House of Cards, Stranger Things level hit. Hulu beat them to the Drama Emmy. Amazon beat them to relevance at the Oscars. They’re at a precarious place in their history again with the debt they’ve incurred.

      Like

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