Movie Review: Molly Plays a Slick Game

Movie Review: Molly Plays a Slick Game
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About the Author

Tyler Collins

Tyler Collins

Tyler Collins is a thespian and performer who has worked with theatre, film, and TV across Ontario. He comes from Campbellton, NB, and has lived in North Oakville nearly 20 years. Currently, he studies Journalism at Sheridan College. Twitter: @MrTyCollins

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There isn’t a more talented and entertaining screenwriter working in Hollywood today than Aaron Sorkin. Now, with his debut feature Molly’s Game, the filmmaking veteran is also taking on the director’s chair. And for the most part, he succeeds.

Most of Sorkin’s true crime story of skier-turned-poker-legend Molly Bloom is a gripping and exhilarating motion picture. Tight edits of glamorous shots across mansions, sports, and luxurious card tables fill the story. Beyond merely being attractive to watch, it’s intriguing to see exactly what Molly’s “game” is (both figuratively and literally.)

Based on the real Molly’s autobiography, the story follows her life (portrayed by Jessica Chastain) from a ski injury in 2002 to her more recent court appearances. Through meetings with her attorney (Idris Elba), she retells how she began running secret multi-million dollar poker games for the world’s elite celebrities.

The movie’s biggest problem is the excessive content. While it’s fun to watch, it’s also needlessly distracting. At nearly two and a half hours, it’s uncomfortably long to watch what alternates between the card shark biopic and legal battles.

Sorkin is a better writer than director, and you can tell from watching the playing of individual scenes. While the story as a whole can drag, each of the many episodes that tell Molly’s story are edgy and acute. His dialogue is masterful and in the moment, it rarely feels overly complicated or superfluous.

Photo: STX Entertainment.

Chastain’s performance as Bloom is exhilarating from beginning to end. Her lightning-quick and intricate monologues are actually the most entertaining parts because they intrigue from the start and effectively retain your curiosity.

Elba, while predictably straight-laced as lawyer Charlie Jaffey, is finally playing a character that bucks his typecasting. His speeches and interviews with Molly show a new ferocity that I’ll bet Elba’s waited years to finally let go on screen.

The film’s humour and intelligence are its greatest assets. Similarly, the sporadic grit and brutal darkness are its weakest, but they aren’t gratuitous. The glamorous production value is interesting, but the inevitable fall of Molly’s empire is cumbersome to watch.

Don’t, however, let the distractions overwhelm you. It’s a great start to the new year, and it’s certainly the sharpest movie of the holiday movie scene. It’s an enjoyable drama and suspenseful crime story that ultimately amounts to a great popcorn-muncher.

It may take time for Sorkin to find his feet as a director. But his writing is still among the best in contemporary cinema. Even if Sorkin doesn’t hold the cleanest hand, he certainly knows how to play his cards with style.

Molly’s Game
3 out of 4 stars

14A, 2hrs 21mins. Crime Biopic Drama.
Written and Directed by Aaron Sorkin.
Starring Jessica Chastain, Idris Elba, Michael Cera and Kevin Costner.
Now Playing at Film.Ca Cinemas, Cineplex Winston Churchill and Cineplex Oakville & VIP.

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