There can be no denying that Aaron Sorkin knows his way around a keyboard.
The acclaimed writer of A Few Good Men (“You can’t handle the truth!”) and The West Wing is also a dab hand when it comes to adapting screenplays based on books by other people.
From The Social Network to Moneyball and Steve Jobs, Sorkin has a gift with words, and for his directorial debut, he has demonstrated that he also knows how to wield a camera.
Jessica Chastain plays protagonist Molly Bloom. As a child Molly’s father (played impeccably by Kevin Costner) relentlessly trains her to become a skier at an elite level. After recovering from spinal surgery to correct severe scoliosis, Molly continues on the path to skiing greatness and is successful enough to warrant an attempt to qualify at an Olympic level.
When a freak accident renders her unable to compete further, she delays college and heads from chilly Colorado to the warm climes of LA to enjoy life as a young woman.
Here she finds work as a PA to a vile real estate agent Dean Keith (Jeremy Strong), who comes with one fringe benefit – he hosts a VIP poker game with Hollywod heavyweights and Molly quickly becomes an intrinsic part of the operation.
The film unfolds through a series of present day scenes with her lawyer – Charlie Jaffey (Idris Elba in career best form), who she has engaged following her arrest by the FBI, and scenes from around 203 as she gets intricately involved in the operation of underground poker nights with a list of exclusive names in attendance, from film stars to bankers.
This is a truly incredible story, made all the more amazing because it is based on the memoir by Molly Bloom – Molly’s Game, and the events (or versions of them) in the film actually happened.
It would be shame to give too much more away as Sorkin really is a master storyteller and he has such intriguing material to work with here it is best left to him to tell it with his signature flair for quality dialogue.
The film clocks in at 2 hours 20 minutes but never feels long.
It skips along thanks to the writing and the masterful performances from Chastain in every single scene she is in and Elba who is one of the most magnetic screen personalities alive.
If I had to have an aspect to be picky about it would be the audio mix that had loud rock music over some early scenes that left parts of the dialogue unintelligible, which is a crime in a Sorkin script. I think these lines I missed were unlikely to be anything too crucial to the plot, but nonetheless it’s annoying to miss part of the film due to another aspect being technically below par.
One thing to look out for are the “lookalike” characters, representative of the poker players over the years from all walks of life. You can read more about the real life Molly Bloom in a fantastic interview here.
Bloom was a smart, tough woman in a world of powerful men and her journey through that period of her life is vividly brought to the screen by an immensely talented cast and crew. Following the box-office disappointment of Miss Sloane, I was wary of this being another miss for Chastain, but with Molly’s Game she reasserts herself as one of the best actors working in the business.
4 & 1/2 Stars – Whip Smart & Super Funny – Pure Dynamite”