The West Wing originally aired in 1999, and, despite my casual commitment to television shows, I watched it on a weekly basis. I still watch the early seasons on a consistently sporadic basis (see above commitment issues) and each episode somehow becomes more important as the years trundle on. It will surprise no one when I confess that I stopped watching The West Wing circa early season five, but I’d seen enough to know that Aaron Sorkin is a name that would motivate me to leave the house and attend an early evening showing on, gasp, a Friday evening. Molly’s Game was not only written and directed by Aaron Sorkin, it also had the added benefit of staring the Jessica Chastain, a firm favourite.
As this is a film based on real-life events I feel obliged to mention that I have no idea how diligently Molly’s Game stuck to the facts. I don’t particularly care. Although, I have decided that Michael Cera was Player X in both the film and real life. If Cera showed up on my doorstep to deny this, I would refuse to believe him.
PLOT: After suffering a career ending accident during a skiing competition Molly Bloom (Jessica Chastain) moves to LA to start afresh and stumbles into the world of big-money Poker. Bloom successfully grows her business empire and skirts the edges of legality before being arrested by the FBI due to a passing connection with the Russian mob. END PLOT
The film opens with Molly’s arrest and the poker scenes play out in the form of flashbacks while Molly is telling her story to various lawyers. Unfortunately, the court and poker scenes lacked tension, and even though it was Molly’s freedom that was in jeopardy, the stakes always felt a bit on the low side. What saved Molly’s Game, was the cast.
Jessica Chastain has been a favourite for a long time and it has been too long since I have seen her on the big screen. Chastain was excellent as Molly Bloom and carried the film with ease. Bloom herself is still a bit of a mystery as I don’t quite understand why she was so desperate to protect her clients and as I am unlikely to read her book, I will forget about her fairly quickly.
Idris Elba is solid as Bloom’s lawyer and he gets to have a few ‘for your consideration’ moments too. Somewhat surprisingly, it is Kevin Costner who almost steals the show as Bloom’s overbearing father and his therapy scene with Jessica Chastain is the film’s standout moment.
Sorkin’s dialogue was fast paced and there were a few witty quips that felt comfortably familiar in style and tone. All that was missing was Allison Janney. Is Molly’s Game the best screenplay Sorkin has written? No, but it still lands well above the average January release.
Molly’s Game was a very decent watch and cemented by love for all the major players involved, and, hilariously, Michael Cera. It was well worth braving a trip to the cinema on a Friday night but it just lacked, something. I don't know what. Molly’s Game gets 8/10, but I suspect that come February, I will have forgotten all about it.