Molly’s Game (2017)

“I always figured sophistication would be easy to learn if I ever needed it.”

Brimming and boiling over with the possibility of a great promise, Molly’s Game is another entry in a long line of recent features – specifically channeling the sensationalist nature and the brass tacks smarts of The Big Short, set in a world of tables filled by packs of celebrity Rounders – that successfully panders to the crowd through a self-assessed valuation. True to veteran writer and first time director Aaron Sorkin’s nature, the film is a 2 hour display of sharply penned tells and reluctantly captured shows, and ends up as one that relies on convincing us through a perpetuating, at times unbroken narration rather than character driven action. Molly’s Game has more high hands than low folds, and at times is a very confrontational film as it assures us, quite incessantly, just how falsely superior it is. This spray tan looks good even though it’s been so noticeably manipulated to look this way.

Molly Bloom (Jessica Chastain), an inventive spark-plug whose switch rarely trips, could have been a titan in any industry of her choosing. Why she came to host the most exclusive high-stakes poker games in all the land isn’t only symbolic of her tenacious nature, but also of her insatiable need to become a person of note. Pushed beyond the breaking point by her father (Kevin Costner) at a young age, Molly became diligent and demanding, a workaholic determined to undermine and eventually exceed the success of her male cohorts. This is the unleaded fuel pumped into her up-all-night, ravenous, factotum focused heart. Her goal – either intentional or a product of the subconscious – is to outplay the men who attempt to shorthand her. Strict book-keeping, a refusal of romantic advances, and a fastidious approach to business make the film worthwhile and equally fascinating, even when the long-winded approach induces lulls instead of excitement. Molly’s Game has voracious eyes that try to see too much, which tends to make the movie lack focus. It’d have benefited from a clearer case of nearsightedness.

Molly’s Game is at its most interesting when the story directs its gaze towards the dynamics of the male-female relationships. When it subjects all of these cuckolding male characters – with the exception of Molly’s lawyer Charlie Jaffrey (Idris Elba) – to confidently walk a sobriety line, whether it be from gambling or booze or the abuse of power. Every drunken fool tip-toes for a while, testing the waters of the institutionalized structures around them, unwitting and undone by a callow, confident, intentionally cool woman whose calculated image and effortless outward beauty serves as the galvanized force behind her wrecking ball of truth and information. Molly’s Game shows men who strip women of power simply because they can, who fantasize about a woman who promotes their worst habits, and is led by a lady who calls their bullshit bluffs for what they are: pathetic attempts to strengthen fragile egos.

Delivering blow after blow courtesy of Sorkin’s typically sharp dialogue, Molly’s Game is a fun watch, if only because Jessica Chastain is near the top of her game as she spars with those belts beneath her. And while Sorkin’s direction is more than competent, this biopic is the product of an untamed author. Pieces occasionally fall flat, a story line with her first boss in the business is unbelievably flimsy, and the purpose of Molly’s entire endeavor is broken down to us in mere minutes via an abrupt therapy session. However, my biggest question remains: Molly narrates this entire film, yet whom exactly is she speaking to or with? I’d almost have preferred if she broke the fourth-wall and talked directly to those of us in the crowd, borrowing stylistic elements from Wolf of Wall Street while still maintaining its own true story’s integrity as it crescendos and collapses. Molly’s Game is a good movie that’s able to brand itself as well above average, with all of the thanks going to Ms. Chastain, once again assuring us that she can do no wrong.

“You really get a kick out of yourself, don’t you?”

Rating: 3.5 out of 5

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