Did you ever have friends over to your house for a night of poker? This was a regular thing in my life from the mid-1980s through 1995. Those of us who worked until midnight would get together after work a spend hours eating pizza, drinking Coke out of the little bottles (none of that NEW Coke for us) and playing games like Follow the Queen or Sh*t or Get Off the Pot. Our highest bet allowed was $5.00. I mention this only because Molly Bloom did the same thing we did, only her stakes were much higher.
Molly (Chastain) was a one time Olympic hopeful whose injuries took her from the ski slopes to a would-be journey to law school. However, before she can crack the books she takes a job with real estate agent Dean Keith (Jeremy Strong), a bossy type who runs her ragged as his assistant. One day she is given the phone numbers of (9) people and told to invite them to a high stakes poker game he is hosting. Molly is put in charge of the buy in money and at the end of the night ends up with $3,000 in tips. A fast learner, she soon begins to run her own game, rubbing shoulders with some of the most renowned actors, athletes and politicians in California. When she moves to New York she again hosts games. Things go well until she is arrested by the FBI for her actions. What are the odds Molly beats the rap?
The first film to be directed by Academy Award winning screenwriter Aaron Sorkin (he also adapted the script from the real Molly Bloom’s book), “Molly’s Game” is a smart tale about how even the slightest mistake can come back to haunt you. The cast is first-rate, with both Chastain and Elba, who plays Bloom’s attorney, Charles Jaffe, giving award-worthy performances. The supporting cast is equally strong, including Michael Cera, identified simply as Player X, and Costner, who plays Molly’s hard-pushing father. The film even serves as a “Dances With Wolves” reunion, with Graham Greene playing the judge who hears Molly’s case.
The script is pure Sorkin, which is always a good thing. His work behind the camera is equally well done. All in all, “Molly’s Game” is a fine inaugural effort from a budding new filmmaker.