Based on true events, Molly Bloom (Jessica Chastain) takes us on a journey of an extraordinary chunk of her life; ping-ponging from her early childhood days of being a hopeful Olympic skier and the relationship with her demanding coach/clinical psychologist father (Kevin Costner) to her rise of being a powerful figure in underground gambling. And all of this centering on acquiring Charlie Jaffey (Idris Elba), a high-profile lawyer that she wants to take on her case after she is arrested for illegal gambling.
In Charlie’s office, these two have bull sessions discussing her life, how she got into this crazy lifestyle, her tell-all book, Molly’s Game: The True Story of the 26-Year-Old Woman Behind the Most Exclusive, High-Stakes Underground Poker Game in the World, and their strategy for going into court. Y’see, Molly is not only whip-smart, but has a razor-sharp sarcastic wit, and has a secret vendetta. When her acerbic boss (Jeremy Strong) introduced her to his underground high-stakes poker game full of celebrities, CEO’s, sports figures, rock stars, and more, she quickly assimilated herself into that world, learning all she can and made mucho dinero.
Seizing an opportunity, she finagles the group away–by way of major celebrity Player X (Michael Cera)–to her own underground high-stakes poker game and boom! She’s now in charge, making major bank and getting major players. But even when you’re running a totally legit game with NO drugs or prostitution, something’s bound to go wrong, right? Soon Molly gets gypped and, facing her moment of truth, heads for NYC and the über-rich of Long Island. Through her savvy marketing and hiring Playboy Playmates as eye-candy hostesses, she soon opens a whopping $250K buy-in poker game and starts attracting filthy rich players… even the Russian mob!
But, as in all gambling ventures of this sort, the price of fame and easy money comes at a price. Molly gets into drugs to cope with it all, she’s forced to “rake” (take a commission from the players) and, worse yet, get in bed (figuratively) with the local Russian Mafia. But all that comes crashing down when the FBI comes calling and Molly’s world and assets are history. Adapting the book, prolific writer Sorkin has done the impossible for a first-time director, and made a movie of depth and meticulous detail, that I cannot praise this film enough.
Sorkin utilizes a grab-bag full of directorial styles: straight-forward, smash-edits and dazzling jump-cuts, and even inter-weaves poker hand and mathematical chart information to let us, the audience, “in” on the action. But that’s only the tip of the iceberg; it’s his delicious, exquisite, eargasm-of-words you came to hear. NOBODY writes like Sorkin writes! Lightning fast conversational dialogue with an over-lapping urgency that demands your attention to listen to every word, every turn of phrase, every nuanced pronunciation. And, by God, Sorkin does not disappoint with this masterful script (Best Screenplay, anybody?).
But a screenplay is only as good as the actors that speak it, and Elba & Chastian are electric in their roles, handling the Sorkin-isms with unabashed clarity and resolve. Look for Elba’s ripping third act rant and Costner’s heartbreaking monologue to Molly to be examples of how awesome this movie is. The story, based on the incredible true life accounts, never falters in the 2 hrs and 20 min. run time (which you never feel, BTW), leaving you wanting more; a rare gift in movies these days. Chastain embodies Bloom, a powerful woman that isn’t afraid to show the cracks in her veneer, while Elba radiates with charm as her would-be lawyer, teetering on the edge of doubt.
The Cincinnati Kid (1965)