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Molly's Game

posted 8 Jan 2018, 04:49 by Scene Alba Magazine

2017, 15, 140 min. Directed by Aaron Sorkin.

4 stars

Based on the 2014 memoir by Molly Bloom, in which she recounts her rise and fall as a runner of high-stakes poker games in the late Aughts, Sorkin seems to have basically taken that book, reformatted it into a screenplay, and filmed it. Bloom (Chastain), a highly ranked competitive skier who had a heartbreaking mishap, moves to Los Angeles and falls in with a real estate agent, Dean Keith (Strong), who also moonlights hosting poker games for the rich and famous. Bloom slowly becomes more involved in the proceedings, a neophyte to the game who is Googling poker terms at a table nearby as she hears them during the late-night games. Fiercely intelligent and a quick study, she soon takes over these games (you can tell she’s on the rise when she replaces her PC laptop with a Mac). Eventually falling out with Dean, she moves the games to New York City, and ultimately, that leads to her arrest. She gets tied up in a large investigation involving money laundering, the Russian mafia, hedge-fund managers, and A-list celebrities never named (Michael Cera hilariously stars as “Player X,” a composite for a number of high-profile actors who circled around Bloom). Her rise is intercut with her fall and trial, and those scenes involving her reticent lawyer Charlie Jaffey (Elba, using a weird accent), are quirky and quick, with references ranging from The Crucible to The Big Lebowski.

You know you’re in Sorkin country when a story unfolds with rapid-fire dialogue squeezed between passionate monologues (my favorite: Jaffey’s “box of Wheaties” speech). But the main draw here, besides the nature of the high-stakes poker milieu, is Jessica Chastain. A fiercely intelligent actor who is only getting better, she imbues Bloom with an unsinkable drive as she continually navigates this “frat house built for degenerates,” a boys club that tries to undermine her at every step. The gender politics may be a little reductive, but Sorkin knows his craft well, and it’s weird that this is his first time in the director’s chair. But overall, Molly’s Game is a crackerjack,smart, engaging, and full of great performances, sometimes telling is the way to go.