Aaron Sorkin is renowned for his screenplays in The West Wing and The Social Network, making his directorial debut in Molly’s Game. Starring Jessica Chastain (Miss Sloane, The Help) the true story deals with the titular character Molly Bloom, an aspiring Olympic skier who starts an underground poker empire after a career-ending injury. Drawn to the games in Las Vegas are the likes of movie stars, athletes, business tycoons and unwittingly the Russian mafia.
What begins as a opportunistic venture to make coin transforms into a coolly calculated, expertly dealt hustle that has the usual vices of addiction (minus the sex). Molly’s lack of foresight sees her write of her escapades and the brushes of fame she has encountered in her memoir, placing her on the FBI’s radar. From here, the narrative jumps between the days before her injury with her overbearing father (Kevin Costner) to the present day trial with charismatic lawyer Charlie Jaffrey (Idris Elba). His investment in her story is more than skin deep and his daughter’s admiration for his client could be better analysed, but it’s a nice touch that represents the media’s portrayal against the court case.
Don’t become caught up in trying to guess the purposefully omitted names of celebrities or athletes. Money does not buy happiness, but it buys influence and that’s something this lot are willing to pay for a seat at this table. Poker is a game that exemplifies their wealth while simultaneously showing the cracks in their pseudo confident personas.
Chastain is convincing as somebody who is less the wannabe and more the ruthless winner haunted by the failure of her past. Sorkin explores how seemingly irrelevant factors can play a significant role in determining the future, but reminds us that the choice is always ours in the end. Perhaps a shorter run time would wrap up the game faster with some scenes losing their leverage being drawn out. It all builds to a finale that’s fitting and realistic, just like the winning streak of any gambler.
Cunning and clever, with enough good hands that won’t leave you flushed.