Molly’s Game is based on the memoir Molly’s Game: From Hollywood’s Elite to Wall Street’s Billionaire Boys Club, My High-Stakes Adventure in the World of Underground Poker by Molly Bloom. The story takes a close-up view of a world that is well beyond most of us. However, when we first see Bloom, she is training to be a skier. Her first coach is her father (Kevin Costner) and he is a very tough on his daughter. The expectations on Molly and her two brothers are extremely high. The Bloom siblings are supposed to excel in sport and academically. When Molly is unable to maintain her sporting career, she loses direction. Rather than attending law school as she had always planned, she heads to L.A. and eventually gets involved in the underground poker world.
In the beginning, she is merely a lowly-paid worker and spectator to the high-rolling, private games. The players are powerful figures in showbiz, sports or business. She doesn’t understand the games themselves or the slightly shady business that keeps the money coming in, but she is a quick study and eventually she decides that she can run the games better than her employer. Her entry into this world leads her to change things about her presentation and where she lives, but she is careful to maintain a business that is above-the-boards in terms of the law.
Bloom spends a number of years, first in Los Angeles and then in New York, building these games. Despite her precautions, they are still risky propositions legally and in terms of the money she could lose (as the virtual bank). The expectation is that anyone running the games must be taking a percentage, which is highly illegal. Bloom is, in fact, not doing this, nonetheless with the types of powerful people attending, there is an increasing risk that she will run into major problems.
MOLLY’S GAME is written by the award-winning Aaron Sorkin, known for his work on television’s The West Wing and the features THE SOCIAL NETWORK (2010) and MONEYBALL (2011) to name but three. Surprisingly for someone with Sorkin’s track record, this movie is his directorial debut. The source material is fascinating and Sorkin treats the tale with his trademark dramatic flair. Bloom is smart, resourceful and has an ethical code. Nonetheless, she over-estimates her ability to thrive in her new world financially without it affecting who she is fundamentally. This is the question this story poses: can Molly run her game and not be destroyed by it?
Jessica Chastain in a lead role is usually watchable, but she shines here as the A-Type who loses herself. This is some of her best work. Michael Cera is very good too, nicely cast against type. Idris Elba and Kevin Costner also make notable contributions.
For those who know Sorkin’s work as a playwright and screenwriter, MOLLY’S GAME has a familiarity in its wordy approach to the dramatic. The movie is densely packed, slightly overlong at 140 minutes, but ultimately it is a satisfying journey into a world that is tempting and dangerous (7.5/10)