RATING: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥
ONE SENTENCE SYNOPSIS: after a near-fatal skiing accident, Molly Bloom retires her plans to become an Olympic skier and moves to LA, where, after some time waitressing, begins running high-stakes, underground poker games for Dean (no last name given); Molly eventually breaks away from under Dean’s abhorrent rule, stealing his clients and establishing herself as the runner of world’s highest-stakes poker games, only to be arrested for taking a cut of the wins.
That was more like two sentences, maybe even three…
Not a lot happens in this film, but it seems like a lot happens because of the amount of dialog. It’s not a bad thing though. Aaron Sorkin’s dialog is good and interesting. His direction is another matter. By no means is this an awful film, but I suppose that I have begun to expect more from first-time directors with the successes of Jordan Peele and Greta Gerwig. I know, I know, just because you are a good writer doesn’t mean you’ll be a good director. Sorkin just tries to cram a lot into this film, and that presents the biggest problem.
For one, there is this arc between Bloom (Jessica Chastain) and her father (Kevin Costner) that seems shoehorned in, taking us out of this otherwise intriguing story. It is sort of insulting to the audience that the film acts as if we didn’t already understand that it takes a certain kind of person to run high-stakes, underground poker games. Back to the highlights.
I really enjoyed the first sequence of this film. Bloom narrates the day at a qualifying event for the 2002 Olympics that ended her burgeoning skiing career with great vigor. The editing and animation in the sequence were fun and fast-paced. Then, it ends with something to the extent of “I am not here to talk about skiing, now onto poker.”
That was a blatant lie: Sorkin takes us back to Bloom’s childhood several unnecessary times and resolves the conflict that took place in flashbacks with her and her father in the aforementioned shoehorned therapy scene. Here we are in the middle of this riveting story about poker–yes poker can be interesting–and Bloom’s weird, psychiatrist father has to ruin it with a lecture.
To some extent, Sorkin is able to keep up with that interesting first sequence, but it is the infrequent flashbacks with Bloom’s father that steer this film in another direction. What is this film about? We can only really focus on one thing: do we focus on her relationship with her father or on her time as the runner for the world’s highest-stakes poker games? We’ve seen the former many times; let’s go with the latter.
Aside from the unnecessary father/daughter stuff, this film works surprisingly well. We follow Bloom around as she works her to the top, overcoming several obstacles along the way. All in all, it is a good watch. For nothing else, Chastain’s performance is amazing. Idris Elba is good in this as well. Even with his character’s odd development, Costner gives a fine performance too. Perhaps, his biggest scene–the unnecessary one at the end–was included because of his performance.
Let us know your thoughts on Molly’s Game in the comments. What were your favorite and/or least favorite moments from the film?