‘Molly’s Game’ Is a Fast-Paced Romp

Director-writer Aaron Sorkin, actress Jessica Chastain propel high-stakes poker world.

By - Feb 8th, 2018 11:34 am
Jessica Chastain in “Molly's Game,” written and directed by Aaron Sorkin. Photo from STX Films.

Jessica Chastain in “Molly’s Game,” written and directed by Aaron Sorkin. Photo from STX Films.

Director-writer Aaron Sorkin is moving so fast from the get-go of  Molly’s Game that audiences better know something about high-stakes poker and the millionaire rollers addicted to Playboy bunny-run tables where millions change hands on every pot and the money chips are digitally minted.

Sorkin has always been speed-demon at his signature best, from TV shows like “West Wing” to “Newsroom” and movies where he was the writer like A Few Good Men and The Social Network. Here he drops even more historical and literary references than usual because the Molly Bloom of the title not only was an Olympic skier and operator of the most famous (notorious?) poker game in the nation, she also boasted an IQ of 173 and wrote a best-seller of the same “Molly’s Game” name.

By cleverly rearranging sequences and inventing several exchanges, Sorkin sticks close to a fascinating story.  Even without the “walk and talk”  technique which dominated “West Wing” and became a Sorkin script cliché, there is no mistaking his dialog rhythm, flights of rhetorical greatness  and electric pace – and even one traditional crutch that here he sure returns to way too hard:  a finale psychiatric evaluation of the protagonist.

But Sorkin as a director knows how to serve Sorkin the writer – rapid cuts back and forth in time, comic introduction and misdirections on main characters to keep the suspense, sharp major performances (mainly Idris Elba as a dubious lawyer and Jessica Chastain, wearing more bodice exposing dresses than usual and replacing Molly’s persona with her own).

Pretty well wasted (the script is way too obvious) is Kevin Costner as either the worst or the wisest father in captivity – take your pick.  But there is a wonderful cameo by a much used but much unknown actor, Bill Camp, as a gambler who totally loses his traditional cool.

No question, the movie is a romp through a high-rolling world of wealthy celebrities and secret Russian mobsters who made Molly wealthy and then tripped her into illegality, but not the illegality the government came after.

Sorkin has made a fun ride with an unlikely heroine into a speedy watchable movie with top production values –and he is probably the best known name in Oscar’s adapted screenplay nominations. But “Molly’s Game” is nowhere near the fresh artistry of other 2017 offerings,

Which is a shame. I think Sorkin is one of our best commercial writers and here proves he has the chops for directing. Someday that may produce a great movie.

Dominique Paul Noth served for decades as film and drama critic, later senior editor for features at the Milwaukee Journal. You’ll find his blog here and here.

One thought on “Movies: ‘Molly’s Game’ Is a Fast-Paced Romp”

  1. Christina Zawadiwsky says:

    Your review definitely makes me want to see this film! I’ve always liked Kevin Costner as an actor, too.

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