So as the story goes, there are secret games for the super wealthy. High stakes gambling, poker and blackjack, sports bets and so on, but the legality is a gray area. The rise and fall of someone between many of these games is Molly Bloom.
Molly’s Game, which is written and directed by Aaron Sorkin in his directorial debut, is based on the 2014 memoir of the same name by Molly Bloom, here of course played by Jessica Chastain in an endless series of push up bras. Molly was an up and coming Olympic level skier until an injury sidelined her — she was constantly pushed by her father (Kevin Costner, doing sort of Draft Day complex dickish work here, not that anyone other than me watched that movie) and her brother ended up skiing in the Olympics.
The movie throws us into the middle of when Molly was arrested by the FBI as part of a mass money laundering and racketeering charge, but only planned to plead guilty to being a very small part of knowing about some shady things. The film is wrapped in what seems to her explanation of her life to potential attorney Charlie Jaffey (Idris Elba), as we keep hearing her narration and then cut back to her trying to get Charlie to help her out despite her lack of funds.
The narration conceit is a bit of a weak point of the movie; although Jessica Chastain is more than capable of pulling off the lines, and the writing is sharp, the context is confusing. That said, her story is interesting. We see Molly’s start as a cocktail waitress in LA, starting to work almost randomly as a hostess for an underground poker game for rich people run by her strip club owner boss Dean Keith (Jeremy Strong). By this point, the movie has made it clear than Molly is beautiful and intelligent, so she picks up on the specifics quickly.
There is a sort of slick style to the movie, reminiscent of some of the Soderbergh works, which is pretty good for a first-time director. Molly tells us about the interesting players, focusing on the mysterious “Player X” (Michael Cera), an amalgamation of several famous players like Tobey Maguire and Leo DiCaprio mentioned in the book. That’s fine, but unfortunately, he mainly just plays it like “It’s slightly more edgy Michael Cera” instead of a completely new persona. So it’s hard to feel like there’s more to it than that.
Molly seems to finally be making decent money and settling in, when she’s kicked out of the game by her boss. So worried about the future, she builds a new game from scratch in New York, and here, as the poet said, her troubles began. Although she had remarkable and fast success, it was a difficult life — she admits to Charlie she took drugs constantly to stay on top of things, and then more money issue arose, including some linked to criminal elements.
And the tension comes down to whether or Charlie can be convinced, or any of us for that matter, that Molly isn’t a bad person. Jessica Chastain shines in this role, which is good, as the movie hangs on her shoulders. She dresses daringly and over the top, similar we’re told to how the real Molly dressed. But you can buy it.
It’s not the deepest movie out there, but it’s a very fun one to watch, with enough emotional moments and connective tissues to keep it enjoyable. It’s not high minded or overly political like these sorts of things sometimes can be, instead it’s simply about degrees of criminality. It’s a fascinating movie, not a movie I expect will make a big splash, but it’s enjoyable.
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Molly’s Game has a run time of 2 hours 20 minutes and is rated R for language, drug content and some violence.