Friday, 26 January 2018

Film Review: Molly's Game


Aaron Sorkin and Jessica Chastain hit the jackpot with Molly’s Game.

Adapted from the expose memoir of the same name, Molly’s Game heralds acclaimed writer Aaron Sorkin’s (The Social Network, Moneyball, Steve Jobs) first directorial effort. The film centres on Molly Bloom (Jessica Chastain), a failed Olympic skier who finds herself caught in the tangled web of underground Hollywood poker games and the target of a FBI investigation. With lawyer Charlie Jaffey (Idris Elba) fighting her corner, Molly recounts her fall from grace, from promising athlete to drug addict and poker pit boss.

As this is a Sorkin joint, you know straight away what to expect from the screenplay; machine gun dialogue, lengthy, dynamic monologues, whip-smart characters and a shrewd storytelling angle that keeps you engaged. Here it’s three stories told in parallel, with Sorkin flitting between the beginning (Molly’s short-lived skiing career), the middle (the climb from preppy assistant to gambling godfather) and the end (her inevitable arrest and trial).

Rather than laying all his cards on the table, Sorkin keeps them close to his chest; like the crafty players seated around the poker table, he lays out the details of Molly’s story like breadcrumbs for the audience to chase after. And while the story is trashier and less reverential than say Steve Jobs, it does do what it sets out to do – entertain – and then some. It’s like Sorkin’s take on The Wolf of Wall Street, albeit with more heart and wit and less outrageous nudity.

So we know Sorkin can write, but can he direct as well? Yep, turns out he can. Sorkin’s approach recalls Martin Scorsese or Oliver Stone at their most energetic and effervescent, with lots of provocative visuals, frenetic editing and lively camerawork. Narration plays a big part in recounting the bulk of the story, and Chastain, bristling with steely composure and sex appeal, strides through it all in style. Similar to her take-no-prisoners performances in Zero Dark Thirty or Miss Sloane, Chastain is committed, fiery and a frankly mesmeric presence.

Despite its length (Molly’s Game clocks in at nearly two-and-a-half hours), I never once felt bored. Partly because Sorkin’s punchy screenplay never ceases to entertain but also because all the actors are keen as anything to sink their teeth into the meaty wordplay and really tear it up, even when the dialogue gets heavy with the poker lingo (what even are big blinds, rivers, flops and nuts?). Elba lands a couple of straight flushes with emotive monologues, Kevin Costner leaves an impression in his limited screen time and Michael Cera has never been more punchable as a smarmy player who excels at reading other people.

The Verdict: 8.5/10


Loaded with zingy repartee that crackles like a firework and a cast that brings its a-game across the board, Molly’s Game is fun, frisky and feverish.

Molly's Game opens in cinemas across Australia on February 1.

2 comments:

  1. Great review. This ended up being one of my favorites of the year and I did not expect it to.

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    Replies
    1. I've read some mixed stuff but I really loved it too! A guilty pleasure, maybe?

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