3 February 2018 | Jared_Andrews
Sorkin and Chastain Flourish in this Fun, Fast-paced Ride
As is the case with all Aaron Sorkin movies, Molly's Game (based on a true story) pummels you with sharp, rapid-fire verbal jabs. Sorkin confidently dances circles around you, dizzying you with repartee, occasionally dropping your jaw with powerful verbal combinations. His scripts come at you aggressively. He hopes to leave you dazzled by the speed and impact of the dialogue, and he succeeds.
As a first-time director, he delivers the same speed and ferocity with the creative camera work and cuts in the opening scene of Molly's Game. The sequence is a whirlwind of clever explanations through narration and visuals. Immediately it becomes clear-this guy knows what he's doing behind the camera.
The remainder of the first hour zooms along in a similarly spectacular fashion. Jessica Chastain shines as Molly Bloom, the poker princess. She exhibits the class, composure, and tenacity required of someone who ran the most elegant poker games in the country for billionaires, athletes, and actors. And, most importantly, she smoothly rattles off all the light-speed Sorkin dialogue in a natural-sounding cadence. The movie doesn't work without the perfect actress playing Molly. Chastain is perfect.
While Chastain delivers her powerhouse performance with swagger, Idris Elba (playing her fictitious lawyer), falls a bit flat. I don't blame Elba, who has consistently proven to be a more than capable performer. His part feels underwritten. As skilled as Sorkin as with dialogue, he does not always create the most compelling or complete supporting characters in his stories.
Elba does deliver one devastating speech with great earnestness. It's a touch preachy, but he says what had needed to be said the entire movie. I was grateful.
The poker scenes bring a lot of fun to the table (sorry, it was right there). Each character represents a real-life celebrity or rich guy or at least an amalgam of a few real-life players. I had great fun guessing which character was which celebrity as I watched. Then I looked up the names later (obviously). That part was fun too.
At some point about halfway through, the movie hits a lull. It drags. It's never boring, but it doesn't hit with quite the same fury. Not every scene feels necessary, so the length becomes noticeably extensive. The movie definitely needs a trim.
After regaining its footing, the movie seems to be on the way to a satisfying conclusion. Then a bizarre ice-skating scene leads into an unwatchably awful three-minute therapy session. I nearly covered eyes and plugged my ears. Tough to forgive that one.
Despite the one horrendous moment, the movie offers far more good than bad. It's fun. It's smart. It's a commendable directorial debut from a long-time writing superstar, Aaron Sorkin, and it's one of Jessica Chastain's finest performances to date.