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Review: Molly's Game (TIFF)

Molly's Game (TIFF)
09.12.2017
8 10

PLOT: A young woman (Jessica Chastain) working for a Hollywood mogul, spins a private poker game for high-stakes players into a multi-million dollar business, putting her in the cross-hairs of the authorities and the mob.

REVIEW: MOLLY’S GAME tells the true story of Molly Bloom, whose memoir of her time running underground Hollywood poker games was tabloid fodder a few years ago, spawning tons of nasty stories about Tobey Maguire, who’s fictionalized here as “Player X”, played by Michael Cera. Turns out, that was only a small part of the story, with Bloom’s career going way beyond these star-studded games, and into East Coast games with Wall Street power brokers and well-connected, well-moneyed players with possible connections to the underworld.

Aaron Sorkin, who makes his feature directorial debut after a long career as one of the town’s hottest writers, spins it into a sophisticated, entertaining tale. Known for his flair for dialogue (with “The West Wing’s” walk-and-talks being an early trademark of his), he’s ideally suited to this, making it a close cousin of his two most recent big-screen outings, THE SOCIAL NETWORK and STEVE JOBS, with one key difference. Molly Bloom, unlike the movie versions of Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs, is a thoroughly likable heroine with a moral compass.

Early-on, the name-dropping from her memoirs is explained away as simply regurgitating stories that were already out there, and simply a way for Bloom to support herself without having to sell her “debt sheet” (a list of all the players who owe her money) to savage collectors. We also see that Maguire and the Hollywood games were just a prelude to the real drama, which puts Molly’s life and freedom in danger.

The film uses the same flashback-technique used in THE SOCIAL NETWORK, with Molly running down her career for her lawyer (Idris Elba), while trying to avoid ratting on anyone, with the point being that she’d rather take her medicine than ruin any lives. Chastain’s impeccably cast as the sharp-witted Bloom, who perfectly plays into the misogyny of the games by sporting some eye-catching outfits displaying ample cleavage, while simultaneously being the smartest person in the room, something no one quite gets until it’s too late. We see that most of her games were legit, and the poker is well-shot, with Cera, Brian d’Arcy James, Chris O’Dowd and an especially good Bill Camp as the players.

Boasting a big supporting cast, which includes Kevin Costner as her difficult father, the focus stays, appropriately, on Chastain. Only Elba, in one scene, gets a big Sorkin monologue, and for the most part the dialogue is naturalistic, with Sorkin proving to be a good judge of when to pull things back and not. At 140 minutes, the movie does go a little long at times considering how talky it is, but even so, it’s never boring.

While I’m not sure MOLLY’S GAME is quite good enough to be a major awards contender, outside of Chastain who has a shot at a best actress nomination, it’s still a compelling, well-told story. It’s a smart, adult drama and well-worth checking out.

Source: JoBlo.com

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