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  • Writer's pictureHunter Friesen

"Molly's Game" Review

Aaron Sorkin is a brilliant writer with a great track record. With Molly’s Game, Sorkin is expanding his role and taking the bold leap by directing along with writing. Sorkin proves he’s a competent director here, but this film pales in comparison to his written work. Molly’s Game is a film with lots a style and substance but still can’t pull off what it’s trying to do.

Based on a true story, the film follows the extraordinary early life of Molly Bloom (Jessica Chastain). She’s an Olympic skier who crashed (literally) and burned into a life of being an assistant as she tries to pay her way into law school. After helping run some poker games for her boss, she decides to run her own high stakes game. She soon begins to attract film stars, billionaires, and other celebrities, all of which raise her status and risk. Soon the FBI gets involved and takes her money, even though she claims she has done nothing wrong. Molly seeks the help of attorney Charlie Jaffey (Idris Elba) to restore her image and avoid serving jail time.

First things first, this is a very dense story. It would be wise to know some background details before watching the film. Sorkin proves he’s the master of writing witty and sharp dialogue, but he also shows that he struggles with filling in the time between. The overall story is constantly confusing as to why Molly is under investigation and how her past is affecting the case. It’s also a long film that suffers from having too much to say in a short amount of time. This is probably the fastest 140-minute ever as it feels as if hours worth of content is condensed down for the sake of reducing the runtime. While a four-hour cut would not have had commercial value, the cut we’re shown doesn’t give us the necessary amount of information.

This film is also very confusing to people who don’t know poker very well (which includes me) since many terms are thrown around as if you already know them. Sorkin tries to simplify the confusion by having Molly narrate the games as a sort of teacher, but the editing and talking are way too fast for someone to watch and remember in one go.

This film can be easily compared to Adam McKay’s The Big Short as both films try to visually simplify complex material. McKay used celebrities and real-world examples, while Sorkin uses flashy editing and voice-overs. McKay’s method didn’t work and Sorkin doesn’t fare much better as tries to condense a beginners poker class in only a few short minutes.

Acting is the strongest aspect here. Jessica Chastain leads the pack by giving a confident and authentic portrayal of a person who gets too deep in her own game. Chastain has the ability to handle Sorkin’s rapid dialogue, which she expertly does with Idris Elba. Elba is great as the tough lawyer that reluctantly takes on her seemingly doomed case. He doesn't try to take over for Chastain, rather he settles for a large supporting role.

Kevin Costner shows up from time to time as Molly’s father, Larry. He’s a psychologist who has always pushed his kids to extremes, which caused a strain between Molly and him. Costner does well in his small time and never lets his gravitas overshadow Chastain.

Lastly, Michael Cera delivers a surprising villainous role as Player X, a movie star that thrives off of competition. He’s the best player in town, which allows him to exert his power over Molly, eventually dominating her and the game itself.

Molly’s Game is a film that doesn’t do anything poorly, it just does everything alright. While that’s enough for most, you would expect more from Sorkin and his talented cast. Overall, Molly’s Game has some of the tell, but little show.


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