Also caught up on Molly’s Game, the new film both written and directed by dialogue-dynamo Aaron Sorkin. Based on a true story (and book) that I completely missed in real life about Molly Bloom, a former Olympic skier turned high stakes poker capitalist. She doesn’t play, she provides the room… which I guess is legal. Honestly, what I don’t know about gambling and poker in particular should have precluded me from seeing – and enjoying – this film. But it’s a powerful, superbly well-written script that doesn’t talk down to a dummy like me but still makes sure I get the gist of the story.
So, yes, this is a crackling, fast-paced, energetic movie filmed and edited like a pro, even though this is Sorkin’s first directorial gig. Of course, he’s written everything from the dialogue-heavy West Wing, Moneyball, A Few Good Men, and The Social Network. The man knows how to write crackling, fast-paced, energetic dialog (he can seemingly do it in his sleep) and I was impressed by how spit-fire his directing and editing was too.
As mentioned, this is a true story of woman (played masterfully by Jessica Chastain) who crashed out of Olympic tryouts and worked her way up from the assistant to a scummy purveyor of high-stakes gambling to being the master of her own gambling universe. Running million-dollar games for the rich and sometimes stupid. But it all crashes down and she seeks out the assistance of lawyer played by Idris Elba after the second time she’s brought up on charges.
In between charges, she wrote a book (also called Molly’s Game) and mentions that at least four attempts had been made to turn her story in a movie. In an amusing meta moment, we realized we’re watching the fifth attempt and somehow this film is itself part of the story we’re watching. I was amused even if the film never mentions it directly.
This is a long movie and generally keeps its pace and drama running smoothly. That said, there are a few scenes that maybe could have been trimmed or cut late in the film but they aren’t enough to deduct too many points from an otherwise great film. You can’t keep up the pace and the snappy dialog all the way through and at least one scene is a little too on-the-nose about its narrative and dramatic purpose. It’s a stumble but the film survives it.
Some have problems with the overly high-brow, smart, and witty dialog that Sorkin writes. Yes, people don’t really talk like this but I don’t see that as a problem. No movie depicting real life events ever depict real life the way real life really is. It’s just not cinematic so we’re already dealing with unreality. I love Sorkin’s dialog and having actors who can pull it off is fantastic. These actors pull it off… with the possible exception of Kevin Costner. He’s not bad but I think if he was up to the higher standards, his scenes would have worked better.
So, yeah, I say check this movie out. Even if you don’t follow poker and even if you don’t care a bit about it, low stakes or high, this movie works. It provides enough context to explain well enough what’s going on and, ultimately, it’s just something to hang Molly Bloom’s story on. I really enjoyed this film.