A pretty stacked hand: 'Molly's Game' review

Turns out there is such a thing as too much Aaron Sorkin.

Molly's Game is a new film from Aaron Sorkin — the writer whom the film professor you had in college likely still rants and raves about to this day.

Sorkin, one of the few screenwriters in Hollywood to actually become a household name, is best known for penning the scripts to The West Wing, A Few Good Men, The Social network, Moneyball, The Newsroom and Steve Jobs.

Molly’s Game is his next outing. However, this one has an added level of significance as it finds Sorkin, in addition to writing the film, sitting in the director's chair for the very first time.

Based on true events that took place sometime around the 2000s, Molly’s Game is the story of Molly Bloom (Jessica Chastain), a former Olympic-class skier turned high-stakes, illegal poker game runner.

Molly Bloom would have happily been as skier her whole life if that was the hand that she was dealt. That’s the career her father — Larry Bloom (Kevin Costner) — had pushed her into for her whole life, despite using somewhat questionable parenting methods to do so.

However, after a one-in-a-million kind of accident that destroys her back and takes away the possibility of ever professionally skiing again, Molly knows that she has to move on and find a new job.

Enter poker.

Molly's Game
credit: YouTube

To be fair, her new job didn’t start off that way. She was working a pretty terrible assistant job for Dean Keith (Jeremy Strong) — who was a total and complete asshole. Instead, it was when Molly was first invited to sit in on an off-the-books poker game when her luck began to change.

This isn’t just any run-of-the-mill poker game, either. Living in Los Angeles, Molly found her way into some of the most exclusive poker games of her time — where movie stars, musicians and business tycoons all came to bet millions and millions of dollars.

Who, exactly, those celebrities are, we’re not allowed to know because the real-life Molly Bloom kept them anonymous in the autobiography she wrote (although Tobey Maguire seems to be a popular theory as to the true identity of ‘Player X,’ Michael Cera’s character).

Anyways, Molly instantly takes a liking to these games. More importantly, she’s good at it. Not good at the actual game itself, as she never bothers to play a hand. She’s good at coordinating and running the whole operation — which just so happens to give her a pretty large income.

Molly begins running these games more and more, trying to be careful about who she lets in and how big these games get. Eventually the inevitable happens, and the FBI catches wind of the whole situation. Molly, then, finds herself in a large court-battle alongside her lawyer, Charlie Jaffey (Idris Elba), where she’s forced to defend all the decisions she made.

Molly's Game
credit: YouTube

When going into a movie written by Aaron Sorkin, you typically know what you’re going to get — a bunch of snappy dialogue in which characters are going to go back and forth, constantly trying to one-up each other.

That’s exactly what Molly's Game is, for better or worse. On one hand, it makes the whole spectacle a ton of fun to watch. The nature of the poker games, seeing how they all play out and the insults that people throw at each other (one running gag about a character named ‘Bad Brad’ made me laugh every single time) is entertaining and provides for some quality content.

On the other hand, Molly's Game can get a little full of itself at times. I seriously, seriously doubt that the real characters this movie is based off talk the same kind of way as they do in Molly’s Game (ESPECIALLY if Player X actually is Tobey Maguire. Can you imagine him trying to deliver these lines in real life?). Sorkin likes to exaggerate everything, sending the film into a world that, at times, has lost its grip on reality.

Which has worked for Sorkin in the past — I’d argue that The Social Network does something similar, only The Social Network does it really, really well. The problem with Molly’s Game is that, in entering this other world, the characters become vapid imitations of what they should be. Instead of giving Molly any substantial personality or a solid character arc, she’s mostly reduced to snappy one-liners who is then given any emotional drama through exposition or narration.

credit: YouTube

That’s not to say the entire movie falls completely flat — the movie comes in at 140 minutes, and it kept my attention for the entire runtime. That’s just to say that this movie could have given Molly Bloom an I, Tonya treatment — where they take this unlikable character and really delve into the psyche of who she was as a person — but chooses to stay on the lighter side instead.

That being said, Jessica Chastain still delivers a knock-out performance in Molly’s Game. Chastain is a threat to be nominated every time she’s on screen, and while she didn’t end up scoring any Oscar noms for this particular role, it’s no less incredible seeing her in it. Idris Elba, Kevin Costner and Michael Cera all do great as well, despite each of them only having a limited amount of screen time.

Molly's Game
credit: YouTube

Molly's Game is fun. The subject matter alone lends itself to some crazy, unpredictable scenarios, and you’re likely going to be speculating on who the real-life figures are after the movie is over. Sorkin also proves himself a perfectly capable director (I mean, he’s no Nolan or Kubrick, but it’s definitely not bad for a debut), even if his writing can become obnoxious every now and again. All in all, Molly’s Game may not be the Oscar-winning masterpiece they originally hoped it would be, but it’s still a perfectly enjoyable film nonetheless.

Watch the trailer for Molly's Game here and let us know what you thought of the movie in the comments below!

A pretty stacked hand: 'Molly's Game' review
  • A pretty stacked hand: 'Molly's Game' review
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