March 27, 2018 Molly’s Game (Movie Review)
The overwhelming fear of failure coupled with the tremendous pressure to thrive in life can sometimes be so demanding and difficult to achieve, that the mere taste of success upon one’s lips can unknowingly initiate an uncharacteristic craving for thrills and misbehaving. The influence of power is basically a gateway drug to the harder stuff like greed and invincibility, which can then only be managed with regular doses of risks and recklessness. In the male-dominated world of underground poker though, one unwavering young woman plans to make the game her very own.
Initially given a limited theatrical release, Molly’s Game is the Biographical Crime/Drama that is set to receive a Digital release on Tuesday, March 27th, and will later be made available on Blu-ray, DVD, and VOD on April 10th via Universal Pictures Home Entertainment and STXfilms. It was written by, and is the directorial debut film of, Aaron Sorkin – who is known for creating and writing multiple TV series such as Sports Night, The West Wing, and The Newsroom; as well as the 1992 Drama/Thriller A Few Good Men. Based on Author Molly Bloom’s 2014 memoir, Molly’s Game: The True Story of the 26-Year-Old Woman Behind the Most Exclusive, High-Stakes Underground Poker Game in the World, what can fans expect from the adaptation?
Well, first of all, the film includes an exceptional cast comprised of the brilliantly gifted Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty 2012, The Tree of Life 2011) as the ambitious Molly Bloom; the inspired Idris Elba (Beasts of No Nation 2015, The Dark Tower 2017) as Molly’s indomitable lawyer, Charlie Jaffey; the skillful Kevin Costner (Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves 1991, Dances with Wolves 1990) as Molly’s demanding father, Larry Bloom.
It also stars the always enjoyable Michael Cera (Superbad 2007, Arrested Development series) as proficient poker enthusiast, Player X; the very capable Jeremy Strong (The Big Short 2017, The Judge 2014) as Molly’s dickish doomswitch boss, Dean Keith; the ever amusing Chris O’Dowd (Bridesmaids 2011, Frequently Asked Questions About Time Travel 2009) as diffused drunkard, Douglas Downey; and the believable Bill Camp (The Night Of miniseries 2016, Loving 2016) as frenzy cards competitor, Harlan Eustice, among some others.
Equipped with a cast and crew that would appear to give this film the upper hand in the form of a stacked deck, all that was left to do was to tell this already intriguing, real-life story of the rise and fall of a woman deemed the Princess of Poker. Molly Bloom (Chastain) came from a family of academic and athletic overachievers; and after training her whole life with her challenging, hard-pushing father, Jerry (Costner), she was well on her way to becoming an Olympic skier just like her older brother. Life instead threw a little, tiny twig into Molly Bloom’s literal and proverbial path though; one that initially and coincidentally caused such complete devastation that it forced her to divert her life’s course and give up on her dreams of becoming an Olympic star.
Luckily, Molly was also gifted with a very brilliant mind that she intended to use to go to college to study Law, but not before taking a year off to move to Los Angeles and actually live a blithe life free from the ingrained pressures that have been placed on her, her entire life. After getting a job as a cocktail waitress at a popular Hollywood club, Molly is approached by her boss, Dean (Strong), to help him establish an extremely exclusive, high-stakes, legal, and yet underground poker game that would go on to cater to some of L.A.’s wealthiest, most illustrious and powerful people. The thrill and success of running the games only further pushed back her pursuit of obtaining her law degree.
While trying to make a name for herself and rise in the ranks as the world’s most renowned and sought-after hostess of underground gambling, Molly is forced out of the Los Angeles scene by controlling and influential men. She boldly moves her business to New York City, where she not only endures a series of significant wins, but also even more costly losses; especially after making a number of bad decisions.
Eventually, she finds herself faced with the risk of potentially losing everything after being raided by the shady federal government and having a RICO case built against her, which is when she acquires Charlie (Elba) as her legal counsel; even in spite of his initial instinct to refuse to take the case.
The performances in this movie were handled with such care and proficiency. Chastain’s portrayal of Molly was so powerful and inspiring, that watching her bloom into the emboldened and brazen role was such a treat. Elba flawlessly embodied his character that was both earnest and intense, and although he could come off as hardhearted, was actually very sympathetic to Molly’s plight. Cera and Costner were also exceptional, but with a cast so brilliant, it was difficult for their supporting roles to fully standout with the wide shadows cast by Chastain and Elba.
The cinematography and pacing were exactly everything they needed to be to keep the viewers from ever wanting to look away. The timeline that leapt between present and past did well to bring smoothly flowing balance to Molly’s fast-paced backstory, which helped break up the slow burn of awaiting her impending trial. Elba’s and Chastain’s energetic and sagacious verbal exchanges were also aided in splitting up the monotony of the legal proceedings.
Overall, Molly’s Game is such a solidly constructed work of cinema. Between the effervescent performances, beautifully cohesive cinematography, precision pacing, assertive and sharp-witted dialogue, as well as the overall character development and dynamics, watching it feels like going all in on the rare possibility of a royal flush, and then just so happening to hit it on the river. This is why CrypticRock gives Molly’s Game 4 out of 5 stars.