It’s been awhile! But we’re back – and this year is going to be a busy one. We’ll start things off with a review of Molly’s Game, a film I didn’t really look into or anticipate before I decided to take a chance and watch it.
What a good idea that turned out to be. The directorial debut of Aaron Sorkin (writer of The Social Network) is a thoroughly enjoyable biopic, a film that tells its story in a fairly straightforward fashion but with engaging pacing, terrific performances and a compelling central character. Based on a true story about a woman who ran private high stakes poker games for the elite, I found myself in disbelief at the extent of Molly’s influence. But disbelief or not, the story is told so convincingly you can’t help but be drawn into the game.
Molly Bloom is portrayed by Jessica Chastain, who does a wonderful job. There’s a voice over narration present in the film, a technique that can either improve a film, ruin it, or be completely irrelevant and unnecessary. This time, the narration is great – it helps the audience understand the central characteristics and motivations of Molly, who we need to sympathise with because the character she is when not divulging her thoughts is a fairly hard sell. She’s aloof, self-confident and powerful – but because of her narration we can understand why.
Molly finds herself in trouble with the law, and as such must find a lawyer. Enter Idris Elba’s character Charlie Jaffey. There’s a bit of a cliche at work in that Molly has no money to pay him but he takes her case – yet we can forgive that considering it’s a biopic and therefore most likely really happened. Elba is a commanding actor, and in this role he’s no different as a skilled Lawyer, demanding father to his young daughter and gradually-accepting guardian to Molly.
One of the central themes of the film is power. Molly’s poker games give her power – but it is taken away easily on more than one occasion. Her past interactions with her father, portrayed by Kevin Costner, give the audience clues as to Molly’s relationship with power struggles. Even Elba’s character tries to re-balance Molly’s power, trying to steer her towards deals he thinks will benefit her. She reasserts her power, even when she has nothing, by refusing to give in.
Chastain is fearsome. She’s a great actress at the best of times and in this film she was even better. Beautiful, but untouchable, Molly is an ‘idea’ to these men – encouraging their gambling and profiting from it without ever appearing vicious or truly dangerous. Instead, danger only presents itself from outside sources.
I was a little surprised that there was very little in the way of threat in the film. Molly’s confidence is so strong throughout that it almost eliminates any real sense of risk. That is until a confidence-shattering moment towards the end of the film turns everything on its head and forces Molly to question what kind of power she really has.
Ultimately, I’d say this is a film built for enjoyment and interest. Its fast-paced, despite a 2 hr 20 minute running time. You’re taken on a journey by Molly’s narration, and find yourself drawn into the same world she is attracted to, while also being held back by Molly’s distance. Despite her accumulating wealth and glamorous acquisitions as the film goes on, we’re given a sense that Molly is never really seduced by the stakes, the lifestyle or the people who play. She is fiercely independent, to a fault. The audience is along for the ride and for better or worse – we’re all playing Molly’s Game.
Watch it if you liked:
The Social Network, Lord of War, Ocean’s Eleven.