Can you imagine being close to winning a spot on the American Olympic skiing team, only to have your hopes and dreams dashed in a second because of an injury on the slopes? That’s what happened to Molly Bloom. What does one do next? The story is quite remarkable, and has been adapted into a film called “Molly’s Game” by Aaron Sorkin of “The Social Network” fame. This time, rather than just writing the script, Aaron Sorkin has also stepped behind the camera.
The first scene of the movie is brilliant. Molly (played by Jessica Chastain) is racing down the slopes. We infer from her voice-over (a narrative device Sorkin often uses) that something terrible is about to happen and all wait with bated breaths for the incident that ended Molly Bloom’s skiing career. We all knew it was going to happen but that did not stop the whole cinema from wincing collectively. After this, Molly stops chasing her Olympic dreams and moves to LA to become a cocktail waitress. It is there that she meets an awful estate agent named Dean and becomes his assistant. Dean tasks her with organising a weekly poker game with some of the biggest celebrities in Hollywood. Soon, Molly starts amassing quite a significant amount of money through tips and enjoys her new lifestyle. After a while, Molly cuts ties with Dean and decides to organise her own high stake poker games in New York and in Los Angeles. Unbeknownst to her, members of the Russian Mafia start turning up to her games, which attracts the attention of the IRS.
In my opinion, the first hour of the film is great but then seems to peter out. The poker scenes are electric with the tension in the air being palpable. Time after time we see “Player X” (played by Michael Cera) defeating other people and winning their money. Don’t let this character’s youthful looks fool you. This is not the sweet and gentle character we encountered in “Juno” (2007). Oh no siree! At first it was quite surprising to see Michael Cera portray such a wicked character but in the end I found him to be quite convincing. In a way, it was quite enjoyable to see the relish on his face when taking other people’s money.
Jessica Chastain is also of course brilliant and manages to embody Molly Bloom to great effect. Over the course of the first half of the film we can see her slowly but surely becoming addicted to the glitz and the glam and the power she has over the players. You would think that this would make the character seem arrogant, but Chastain manages to avoid this by adding a certain vulnerability to the character.
The moment where I believe I started to lose interest and that the tempo of the film started to wane is when Molly finally gives in to temptation and breaks the law. Indeed, she starts taking a percentage of the pot even though this is illegal in Poker. The film has reached its peak and Molly is forced to appear in court. In my opinion, these scenes (as well as the ones between Molly and her Father) are quite boring and are in stark contrast to the excitement of the first half of the film. Saying that though, I did enjoy Idris Elba’s sympathetic portrayal of Molly’s lawyer. Even though I did not particularly enjoy the second half of the film, I would still say that the film is enjoyable and worth watching if you are a fan of Aaron Sorkin’s.