Movie Review: STX Entertainment's #MollysGame

Molly's Game
STARRING Jessica Chastain, Idris Elba, Kevin Costner, Michael Cera, Jeremy Strong, Chris O'Dowd, Bill Camp
Based on the Book by Molly Bloom
DIRECTED BY Aaron Sorkin
MOLLY’S GAME is based on the true story of Molly Bloom, an Olympic-class skier who ran the world's most exclusive high-stakes poker game for a decade before being arrested in the middle of the night by 17 FBI agents wielding automatic weapons. Her players included Hollywood royalty, sports stars, business titans and finally, unbeknownst to her, the Russian mob. Her only ally was her criminal defense lawyer Charlie Jaffey, who learned that there was much more to Molly than the tabloids led us to believe.

Aaron Sorkin's Molly's Game is an exercise in all things Aaron Sorkin, for better or worse. The writer of A Few Good Men, The Social Network, and t.v.'s The West Wing takes a stab at directing the powerhouse cast of Jessica Chastain, Idris Elba and Kevin Costner in a larger than life biopic about Molly Bloom's rise and fall in the world of high-stakes poker. Don't worry; Aaron Sorkin also wrote Molly's Game, so he hasn't given-up writing for directing.

It doesn't so much matter that Molly Bloom is a real person or that the movie is based on real events. In Sorkin's world,  the real people are all turned into fast-talking, wry and intelligent characters who can deliver monologues like no body's business. 

To deliver his tightly written monologues, Sorkin relied on excellent casting. Chastain (as Molly) has previously proven herself an expert at delivering powerful dialogue. Think Miss Sloane or Zero Dark Thirty. She carries the role of Molly perfectly. Chastain was very believable as both an Olympic quality skier and as a poker game host.  Costner (as Larry Bloom, Molly's dad) is equally strong and convincing in his father role. The give and take between Costner and Chastain were the best scenes in the film. 

By constant, the scenes between Elba (as Charlie Jaffey, Bloom's lawyer) and Chastain were not as interesting. Elba has a slow, rugged quality that slowed down the action. The pacing of the plot felt uneven. Elba delivered too many lines with dramatic pauses. The smoldering good looks aside, it got old. 

The poker got old, too. At first, the audience is drawn-in by the voyeuristic intrigue of peeking into a foreign, secret world. There's a poker game. There's a ton of money at stake. There's also a power struggle. That was interesting. Quickly, the action turned self-indulgent and self-destructive.  The plot became unrelatable, so far from reality that it became uninteresting.  And then, there was another poker game and another and another. Seems like there had to have been more issues in Bloom's life, but all the audience saw was poker. 

Still, from the prologue on to the court judgment, Sorkin's writing makes it entertaining to watch Bloom navigate the underbelly world of illegal gambling. The three stars of Molly's Game are always worth watching. And the story is a part of Americana. It might be a worthwhile time at a theater, for fans of Sorkin or fans of poker. Molly's Game is in limited release now. 

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