Molly’s Game

Aaron Sorkin’s account of the extraordinary story of Molly Bloom, Olympic skier who goes on to run the biggest poker games in the US and becomes vicariously involved in Russian money laundering, is predictably sharp, witty and cool. This is Chastain’s movie through and through, in that it’s hard to imagine anyone else occupying the central role. One is immediately struck by how rare it is to have a woman’s monologue driving the narrative in the way we’re accustomed to Pacino or Matt Damon doing. With flashbacks to her overbearing childhood, it also gives us the full Scorsese type scope of a (semi) criminal life that is nearly always focused on a male subject.
Given that it’s Sorkin, it feels like you’re taking a crash course in subject vernacular as we learn the different terms for poker hands, players, betting strategies. The best parts of the film are the scenes between Bloom and Elba as her lawyer. The dialogue here reaches peak Sorkin, which is both its strength and weakness. In this fast paced, jousting interplay they talk in exactly the way people don’t. It’s like a Michelin chef version of a comfort food, Heston Blumenthal cooking fish and chips, it’s admirable in its own right, but is overly structured and lacks authenticity.
It would have been interesting to see what a female director would have done with this material, and it’s difficult to separate a sense of the male gaze with perhaps some of the reality of the situation. But Bloom is portrayed sympathetically and moralistically throughout. Its triumph is having a strong female central character in this type of movie which are so much the male domain. I’m beginning to feel that this blog should be renamed “Films in the time of Trump” because I find it impossible to review without placing them in that context. It’s not hard to replace the misogyny, creepiness and undermining of women’s power that Bloom encounters in the poker games that surrounds Hollywood, with those actions at the core of the movie industry itself. For all those people who think women should be paid less, or Star Wars should be recut only to show men, the firm set of Chastain’s perfect jawline is a declaration of war on all that shit.

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2 Responses to Molly’s Game

  1. Scott Leslie says:

    Another great review. Totally concur about the dialogue – exactly what one expects from Sorokin, both its virtue and its problem.

    Surprised you didn’t mention what for me was the one big mis-step in the film, casting Michael Cera as the movie star big fish. He’s already implausible enough in real life as a movie star, why stretch credulity in the otherwise realistic film?

    But generally enjoyed it, it got the poker stuff bang on.

    • admin says:

      Thanks again for commenting Scott. Yes, Cera was an odd casting choice wasn’t he? It jarred quite a bit. My only thought was that maybe the message we were supposed to take from this was that it’s not just the sleazy Hollywood types who are shits but also the ‘nice guys’ too? But I can pretty much do without Cera in most movies tbh.

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