Longtime readers of the site will know that if Jessica Chastain is in a movie then I will be watching the movie. It is an inevitability. The same goes for Idris Elba. And Aaron Sorkin. The question is whether I would go to the theater, or wait for home video. But the three together? Opening weekend of wide release.
From the Press Kit:
MOLLY’S GAME is based on the true story of Molly Bloom (Jessica Chastain), a young, charismatic Olympic-hopeful skier who was forced to abandon athletics after a devastating injury. With law school on hold, Molly takes a summer job that introduces her to a new endeavor requiring similar discipline and drive: running the world’s most exclusive high-stakes underground poker game. The deep pockets of Hollywood royalty, sports stars and business titans give her a decade of glitzy, glamourous success, but Molly attracts the wrong kind of attention when she inadvertently engages members of the Russian mob at her table. Her streak comes to a grinding halt when she’s arrested in the middle of the night by 17 FBI agents wielding automatic weapons. Facing criminal charges, her only ally is her reluctant defense lawyer (Idris Elba), who discovers that there’s much more to Molly Bloom than the salacious tabloid stories reveal.
Something that I love about film is that when you watch something that is so engaging you try and imagine yourself as one of the characters. I realized that, if anyone, I am Douglas Downey, played by the delightful Chris O’Dowd. While we don’t share the same fortunes we do find ourselves falling perilously in love in the least opportune times. It is both nice to find my character, and sad to find that I am THAT character. This relatability is a trademark of Sorkin’s writing. While the characters recite more words in two hours than some do in as many weeks, they also latch onto their viewers to build relationships.
The film is broken down into three timelines, the first encompasses Molly’s youth/sporting career in which Chastain, and her eerily familiar younger selves, Piper Howell and Samantha Isler, verbally spar with her father, played by Kevin Costner. The second is the fast paced life of a poker entrepreneur in which the viewer can, at times, barely keep up with the firecracker dialogue. The final is the partnership with lawyer Charlie Jaffey, played by Idris Elba.
I wish I could say that the film is perfect. In some ways it is close, but there is something that is stopping me from doing so. As complex as the film can be there is also some quality that just nags at me. The film sticks the landing and is technically accurate, everything that matters is resolved, and there is even a lesson that you take away, so I am not sure what could be my issue. Perhaps I walked in with too high of an expectation, or perhaps it requires a second viewing, I am already planning on that. There are no loose ends which require water-cooler discussion, or it may be the technical accuracy, which I would prefer to leave to the viewer.
This, of course, is not a hindrance to the picture. It is quite good, it engaged me through the entire two and a half hours. The lady of the house picked up on a few pacing issues where the first three-quarters of the film move at a fairly quick clip and the final quarter starts to drag, but that is forgivable because of the interesting editing choices. There is one line which pulled me out of the action, I will leave that for you to find. Still though, it is a very good film.
Some of my favorite parts of the overall package were in the expressive, almost giallo-esque, lighting in some of the scenes as well as the set, and costume, design work all throughout the film are tremendous. The film can live or die on your desire for an Aaron Sorkin script and the performances from Chastain and Elba. All-in-all, this is certainly a film worthy of your time.
Director: 7 – Cinematography: 8 – Edit: 6 – Parity: 10 – Main performance: 10 – Else performance: 6 – Score: 6 – Sound: 6 – Story: 8 – Script: 10 – Effects: 6 – Design: 9 – Costumes: 10 – Keeps interest: 10 – Lasting: 10