Molly’s Game is a fast-talking poker film based on the memoirs of Molly Bloom, a skier who hoped to make the Olympics, but instead ended up running high-stakes gambling all-nighters with actors and gangsters in Hollywood and New York.
In reality, Ben Affleck and Tobey MacGuire were among the players – but the film doesn’t mention them or anyone else specifically, ignoring potentially juicy gossip to focus its attention on Molly, whose quest is to emerge from this underground world unsullied.
Jessica Chastain plays Molly brilliantly, charting her growth from reserved novice to steely and self-assured business woman. Idris Elba is on fine form, too, co-starring as Molly’s lawyer.
The script by Aaron Sorkin, the genius writer responsible for The West Wing, is full of his customary zingy dialogue and witty comebacks. And for the first time Sorkin has taken on directorial duties, too, and he does a solid job, with Charlotte Bruus Christensen’s cinematography beautifully promoting Chastain’s dignified star performance.
The world which Molly’s Game depicts is a seedy, exploitative one full of affairs, drugs and gambling for astronomical stakes. Some poker knowledge will be helpful but is by no means essential as the poker games are played out with an energy that’s easy to get swept along by. And although the Sorkin banter can become slightly wearing at times, the emotional heart of this true story still hits home.
So, a promising directorial debut from a writing titan, and certainly entertaining. Looking for a decent New Year’s watch? Here’s your Star Wars alternative.
Molly’s Game is released on January 1