In Brief: Opens Christmas Day. Dramatic, yes. Sometimes humorous. Yes. This award-worthy flick is not exactly poker-faced.
One of todays’ best script writers, Aaron Sorkin takes his first trip behind the camera and writes and also directs Molly’s Game. What makes his directorial debut perfect is his script detail and ability to write a great story.
While I suspect some of this one is punctuated here and there for dramatic effect, it is a “true” story based on Molly Bloom’s best seller. Drop dead gorgeous and understanding how to use her beauty and that of Playboy playmates and other models, Bloom ran high stakes poker games in Los Angeles and New York City for a few years. Billionaires, movie stars and mob and mafia figures attended her games.
Sometimes the chips on the table totaled millions of dollars. Bloom earned millions herself in tips and a cut of the nightly pot. Her games weren’t illegal. Taking a percentage of the pot is against the law.
When one of the guys at her table gets busted, the FBI learns about Bloom and the game, they seize her assets, bank account and place her under arrest. Agents then put the squeeze on Bloom to provide information about the bad guys who played at her tables. Some committed crimes ranging from money laundering to murder.
The question is will the FBI deal her a winning hand? Does she have an ace in the hole? Will Bloom’s hand hold? Or will she concede and fold?
Moviegoers who ante up the dollars for a ticket will find Sorkin treating them to a good hand. He casts two of today’s better actors Jessica Chastain as Bloom and Idris Elba is her lawyer. The supporting cast is also very good. Kevin Costner is Bloom’s controlling psychology professor dad. Michael Cera (TV’s Arrested Development) is Player X. He’s an important part of Bloom’s story and an actor that Bloom refused to identify. You can easily find his name online.
I’m not identifying the actor because a big part of the fun of Molly’s Game is trying to figure out the guy’s name. I’ve since found out and it puts this actor’s personality in a whole new light. Other actors also attended the games and if you do an online search you’ll find their names and involvement interesting, too.
Or I can do it for you and you’ll find them in a sentence at the end of this review in my rating section. I’m giving this one a 5 out of 5 so you won’t even need to go that far down at the conclusion of the review.
Sports figures in New York City — and her games were done at the (is it deliberately not-mentioned?) Trump Tower — are among the celebrity attendees of Bloom’s games.
Positives. Lots of them. Chastain is always very good. The best part of her performance — and this goes to Sorkin’s excellent writing — is her narration. In a conversational, almost comic, delivery, Chastain matter-of-factly lays out Bloom’s story and what drove the lady to run what could be the most expensive poker games in history.
Elba is one of the best actors working today has a blast with Sorkin’s material. Like Chastain, he plays Bloom’s poker-faced attorney straight but underneath his delivery is a hidden smile. He and Chastain banter like best buddies all through this delightful — though at times, dramatic — film.
The real star here — however — is Sorkin. He is an exceptional writer. His resume includes some of the best movies of the last couple of decades: Steve Jobs, Moneyball, The Social Network, Charlie Wilson’s War, A Few Good Men and more. This screenplay bounces seamlessly between Bloom’s past and present. Tack on Chastain’s superb narration and Molly’s Game is straight-ahead terrific. No frills. Just great storytelling.
It’s getting awards nominations and more will be coming so Sorkin has dealt himself — his actors and you — a royal flush.
Director: Aaron Sorkin
Stars: Jessica Chastain, Idris Elba, Kevin Costner, Michael Cera, Jeremy Strong, Chris O’Dowd, Graham Greene
Rated R for language, mature themes. This one is a lot of fun and has a wonderful screenplay and acting. Give Molly’s Game a 5 on the Average Joe Movie 0 to 5 scale.
The actor names: Player X is Tobey Maguire. Other actors attending the games are Leonardo DiCaprio, Ben Affleck and Matt Damon.
5 to 4 1/2: Must see on the big screen.
4 to 3 1/2: Good film, see it if it’s your type of movie.
3 to 2 1/2: Wait until it comes out on DVD.
2 to 1: Don’t bother.
0:Speaks for itself.
Gary Wolcott has been a movie consultant for KXL since 2014. A lifelong fan of film, he’s been a film critic in radio, television and newspaper for 25-years. Wolcott catches a couple of hundred movies a year and he sees a great many of them so you don’t have to.
Got a movie suggestion or comment? Click here to email him.