‘Molly’s Game’ Blu-Ray Review: Jessica Chastain Shines In Real-Life Poker Magnate’s Tale
Molly’s Game is the type of film that is both surprising and unsurprising.
On the one hand, it uses many of the tropes and cliches of movies based on real events: voice-over narration, long, powerful monologues and interspersed use of general culture references and frequent technical jargon for whatever subject matter the story centers on — in this case, laws as they pertain to gambling (and skiing, for a brief moment).
On the other hand, Aaron Sorkin’s film directorial debut is a triumph that embellishes very little with regards to what the protagonist experienced and paints a very genuine picture of a woman who though seemingly arrogant at first, became substantially and believably more humble after taking one hard look at herself and the consequences of her actions.
Academy Award nominee Jessica Chastain stars as Molly Bloom, a well-educated former Olympic skier who suffered an accident that led her to rethink her life decisions and instead run an underground poker ring that rapidly transformed into a multimillion-dollar business across several venues in the country. Bloom’s high-stakes venture wasn’t just your ordinary game night among friends, however. She only served as the house for games whose players were celebrities: movie stars, musicians, high-profile businessmen, tech company CEOs, and — unbeknownst to her at first — Russian mobsters.
Fast forward approximately two years after Bloom last ran games and the FBI and other federal prosecutors — who have been hot on her tail — have charged her with several crimes. She writes a memoir about her experiences running the card tournaments and hires smooth-talking criminal defense lawyer Charlie Jaffey (Idris Elba, The Wire, Beasts of No Nation).
In typical Sorkin fashion, the script moves at lightning speed, and that alone will keep you on your toes. Though the plot drags and gets side-tracked at times, there are enough scenes with well-written dialogue that will cause viewers to reflect on the situation at hand and sufficient plot twists and other surprises to keep your eyes glued to the screen.
Chastain is mesmerizing as Bloom, and recalls a similar intelligent, confident and powerful female character she has previously played (though not based on a real person): the protagonist of Miss Sloane, in which she portrayed a lobbyist vying to push for greater gun control in Washington, D.C. Chastain wavers from acerbic wit and sarcasm to arrogance to decency and vulnerability — as one might expect any person with a troubled family past might — with astounding ease.
Elba is also brilliant as the attorney who — though hesitant and somewhat smug at first — by the end appears ready to do almost anything to help a woman he believes doesn’t deserve the punishment she’s getting.
Molly’s Game feels like a biopic at times and a legal thriller in other instances and interweaves both genres in a very satisfying way. Add in some drug consumption to make Molly Bloom look like a female version of The Wolf of Wall Street’s Jordan Belfort (and a quick scene that shows her washing said narcotics down the toilet just as the FBI is coming to get her a-la-Lorraine Bracco in Goodfellas), and this flick gives you nearly all the entertainment you could ask for.
Even Michael Cera is memorably captivating and shows off his versatility in his short turn as one of the Hollywood actors participating in the poker games who quickly becomes one of the top-earning players and who has some secrets of his own. Kevin Costner is also refreshing as Bloom’s domineering and not-so-likeable father who briefly displays a moment of humanity toward his daughter in the eleventh hour.
Special features include a digital copy and the featurette “Building an Empire,” which shows how Bloom established her underground poker ring.
Molly’s Game is not the greatest legal drama or biopic of all time. Nevertheless, it is a sincere portrait of a woman’s life and how she learned to deal with all of her issues — both the ones she was responsible for and the ones she did not bear any blame for.