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Film Friday: Molly’s Game

Now I don't know too much about poker. Actually I know nothing about poker. I have always wanted to learn for years, but sadly my card playing skills are showcased best at Go Fish only. However, leave it to masterclass writer Aaron Sorkin to get me fully invested in a movie about a game I know nothing about. Only thing better: it's all based on a true story.

Aaron Sorkin's directorial debut Molly's Game is based on the memoir of the same name by Molly Bloom (played by Jessica Chastain), a former Olympic class skier who single-handedly built an underground poker empire over the course of ten years. Bloom's exclusive high-stakes poker game saw the likes of Hollywood celebrities, business tycoons, athletes, and even the Russian Mob all sit at her table. When Bloom becomes a target in an FBI investigation, however, her empire comes crashing down with her only ally in her criminal defense lawyer (played by Idris Elba).

Now I know what you might be thinking, how is Molly's Game qualifying as an inspirational movie for this week's Film Friday? Molly Bloom does not exactly have the kind of success story worth admiring on the surface. She, unknowingly, got involved with the Russian mob, was arrested by the FBI and faced federal charges, and ran an underground game mixed with gambling, drugs, and trouble. However, similarly to how the movie portrays Molly Bloom's character, there is so much more underneath the surface. Molly Bloom was an exceptionally talented and bright woman. Before an injury, she was an Olympic qualifying skier. She received an above average Harvard law school LSAT score. Most importantly, she was a woman who became successful in a man's world. Bloom was the only one of her kind in the underground world of exclusive poker games, and though she experienced great losses, she always managed to pick herself back up and start over again. Even when all the odds were against her, Bloom still had the drive to make herself successful. In her federal court proceedings, Bloom kept her integrity above all else and learned from the mistakes she had made. If that isn't a woman worth admiring, then I don't know what is.

Aaron Sorkin is a legendary screenwriter, with such credits under his belt such as The West Wing, A Few Good Men, The Social Network, and Steve Jobs. The script for Molly's Game is of course fantastic, with his trademark rapid fire dialogue practically bouncing off the screen. The characters are all so well fleshed out, with layers peeled back to reveal even more than what meets the eye. The development of Molly Bloom's poker game becomes enthralling for the audience, who begin to feel her success and share her pain. In his directorial debut, Sorkin is solid. It is a well done film with Sorkin calling the shots and results paying off immensely.

Probably the strongest hold the film has is in its lead actors. Jessica Chastain is absolutely amazing, in what I would call a career best performance. She is transformed into Molly Bloom, from the cocktail waitress to the ruler of the world's most exclusive poker game to a daughter who still has issues with her father. Right down to Molly Bloom's voice, Chastain dominates the role and showcases both her strength and vulnerability in playing such a powerful yet conflicted woman. Her on screen chemistry with Idris Elba is fantastic. Any scenes the two have together are instantly electrified.

My only complaint of the film would be the length, as it felt a little long towards the end. I still want to rewatch the film though, just to absorb everything and appreciate better the dialogue and story. Some poker details and plot points were lost on me so I think it warrants a second viewing. Molly's Game is a movie worth watching. Molly Bloom's incredible true story is brought to the screen justly by Aaron Sorkin, and Jessica Chastain's powerhouse performance only makes it better.

On the Ticket Stub Love scale, I give Molly's Game 4 out of 5 stars.

[Article originally published 01/19/2018]

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