Molly’s Game (2018) – Review

Director: Aaron Sorkin
Starring: Jessica Chastain, Idris Elba, Kevin Costner, Michael Cera, Jeremy Strong, Chris O’Dowd

The Overview
The true story of Molly Bloom, an Olympic-class skier who ran the world’s most exclusive high-stakes poker game and became an FBI target. (Source: IMDb)

The Review
After much speculation, including the always hilarious blind-optimism that it might be Star Wars (Spoiler alert: it never will be.), the Cineworld Unlimited cardholders were treated to a super-advanced screening of Aaron Sorkin’s directorial debut, Molly’s Game; a film which seems destined by rights to garner awards buzz.

Sorkin’s name is synonymous with award-winning and award-nominated screenplays, having penned The Social NetworkMoneyball, and Steve Jobs. To have someone who already has a style so distinctive, that you can identify one of his scripts within minutes, and now to be making his directorial debut, is undeniably exciting. In fact, Sorkin is already so much of a household name that you’ll probably find yourself fact-checking IMDb to try and disprove that Molly’s Game is his debut in the director’s chair; it really does seems hard to believe. 

Of course he does also pen the screenplay for Molly’s Game, and any doubts about whether some of his flair for sizzling wordplay would be lost when also directing, are quashed almost immediately. With the rapid-fire narration from leading lady Jessica Chastain, as the titular Molly Bloom, ably proving she is capable of handling a Sorkin script, we’re off to a strong start. Similar to The Social Network, we’re bombarded with jargon which is at times alienating, but never not compelling. The dialogue flows so naturally and with such dexterity that we as the audience, hang on every single word.

With a fairly hefty run-time of 2 hours and 20 minutes, Molly’s Game does outstay its welcome just a little, its pace is relentless and the script so sharp and snappy that you’re barely given a moment to recover, and it does suffer from feeling a little exhausting in places. That being said, the acting talent easily grapples with Sorkin’s demanding discourse, and that is not the easiest of feats.

Jessica Chastain is, as always, on fine form; a compelling screen presence who handles the intricacies of the subject matter and the complexities of the character with total ease. Whilst Molly is at times an unlikable character (one of its drawbacks it has to be said), she is never not watchable, and her performance is measured and astute. Likewise, Idris Elba is amazing, arguably his best work since the HBO series, The Wire. It would be a big surprise not to see him in the conversation for Best Supporting Actor, and there is a big-speech-moment towards the end which has “Awards Clip” written all over it

Molly’s Game has a lot going for it, but it does suffer from being overlong, and as alluded to, when so much time is spent with a lead who is, for the most part, unlikable, it does run adrift at times. Were it not for the strength of the leads, it would feel like more of a drag, but fortunately Chastain and Elba more than make up for the times in which the plot meanders. It is admirable that Sorkin never feels the need to talk down to an audience, and we’re slapped in the face with Poker terminology with machine-gun-esque pace and force. It is at times, a little alienating – unless of course you happen to be a Poker expert – and again it is the strength of the performances and the way in which they attack the complex dialogue that makes it compelling.

Molly’s Game is arguably Aaron Sorkin at his “Sorkiniest” (you can have that phrase for free!), or “peak-Sorkin” if you will. Fans of his previous work will not be disappointed, and hopefully he will continue to direct as this is an accomplished and impressive film. It falls a little short of being totally amazing, but it will no doubt impress and it’s probably a great time to start placing your bets (responsibly of course!) on him receiving at least a screenplay nod come Awards season. 

The Verdict
I saw this movie and you should too.

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