Molly's Game Review
One Good Woman
Aaron Sorkin's Molly's Game is an impressive directorial debut from the master scriptwriter behind The West Wing and A Few Good Men, with Jessica Chastain finally given a worthy leading role.Having honed his talents writing some tremendous scripts and stage plays, and finally winning an Oscar for The Social Network, Sorkin ventures behind the camera to craft a compelling look at the life of Molly Bloom, taking her published memoirs about running an underground poker club for the rich elite and - as it turns out - some criminal elite too, and fashioning them into a punchy and powerful biopic driven by a great protagonist, some colourful characters and some even more impressive performances.Using plenty of clever non-linear techniques (it might be safe to conclude that no modern biopic would dare telling a linear story as is presumably the format of the original source autobiography), Sorkin not only starts us off in media res, but arguably towards the end of the tale, with poker queen Molly Bloom getting arrested by the FBI, before intermittently taking us back in time not only to the events that led up to her arrest but also the childhood events that made her the woman she was.
Chastain owns the part, and it feels like something that she's been waiting for her entire career, having worked with some great directors, impressed in important supporting roles in the likes of Interstellar and The Martian, and gathered acclaim for her more prominent parts in Terrence Malick's The Tree of Life and, as the lead, in Kathryn Bigelow's Zero Dark Thirty. Despite all of this, decent leading parts are still relatively elusive, with her wasted in The Huntsman: Winter's War and on more impressive form in Miss Sloane, even if the story wasn't as great as she deserved. Molly's Game finally gives her a truly defining lead role, strong enough to warrant an Oscar Nomination, and leave her likely celebrated as the best part about this movie, which is no feint praise. Supported by Idris Elba, on fine form himself, and a cadre of nice bit players - with Kevin Costner (as is no real surprise) the real standout, in a father-figure performance which, yet again, will likely leave you close to shedding a tear - it's Chastain's baby through and through.
This is Jessica Chastain's baby through and through
Sorkin fashions an excellent narrative and turns in his usual razor-sharp writing, which involves almost an entirely narrated first act, as Molly tears through her early start getting the poker games going. With a keen attention to detail, Sorkin moulds the character of Molly into someone we admire and are in awe of, moving at a speed that almost demands the kind of on-the-move writing that only Sorkin can deliver. Thankfully, unlike perhaps the colder Social Network biopic, he actually finds a heart to this protagonist, driven by a painfully strict and demanding father whose own keen intellect often put the two at odds.
With some excellent dips into true poker playing (this is no trashy Hollywood Casino Royale poker playing), it's only with hindsight that you can reflect upon the fact that Sorkin has managed to craft such an exquisite and epic affair (the 140 minute runtime flies by) out of an admittedly incredulous but still fairly lightweight story, and that it's actually Chastain who has driven the piece across the finishing line, the two of them very literally making something out of nothing, and giving us an almost must-see biopic, which feels original, and is utterly riveting, but which is actually likely nothing we haven't seen before, even from Sorkin himself (A Few Good Men looked at similar themes of honour). Indeed, we'll have to see after the passing, and hopefully winning, of a few awards, whether Molly's Game stands up to repeat viewings at home, but even with a familiar story trajectory, the colourful characters, sharp script and stunning lead performance should hold it in good stead. For a first watch it's certainly highly recommended and almost unmissable.
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