Jessica Chastain stars as Molly Bloom, Olympic ski athlete turned high-stakes gambling ring leader, in the intensely complicated, fast-paced thriller “Molly’s Game” based on autobiography of the same name. Bloom has been convicted of leading an illegal gambling ring and is arrested by the FBI. Pleading innocense over the last 2 years, after having been arrested the first time, Bloom seeks the legal prowess of the upstanding high-powered and well-respected Charlie Jaffey (Idris Elba). It’s a fight that boils down to integrity and honesty that will leave you speechless.
The story begins in the middle as Bloom is abruptly awoken in the middle of the night to harsh and over-reactive FBI agents. We are then taken back in time to Bloom’s childhood where her parents, particularly her father, Larry (Kevin Costner), drive her to accomplish greatness in skiing. The opposition between the father-daughter duo is obvious and painful to watch, but as Bloom is narrating these scenes, you begin to understand where she gets her determination, strength, and single-mindedness. Pay close attention to every word Bloom utters as this intelligently crafted script brings everything around full circle.
When the audience is caught up to speed, we rejoin Bloom as she meets and convinces Jaffey to represent her in court. Again, to allow Jaffey (and the audience) to understand her current situation, we are brought back to Bloom’s life as she hit the crossroads after a life-threatening and athletic career ending accident. Choosing, against her father’s wishes, to go to L.A. and postpone law school, Bloom finds herself working for a gambling ring leader. With her intelligence and savvy skills, Bloom easily takes over the game and builds it to new levels.
Here’s where it gets complicated. The ring is comprised of high-profile actors, investors, and businessmen. We delve into the background of each of these remarkably interesting personalities and as we do, we learn more about Bloom, her choices, and eventually her final decision. Combining the complicated situations, the fast-paced dialogue and the intensity of the situation leaves you on the edge of your seat, captivated by every important word uttered.
“Molly’s Game” is Aaron Sorkin’s directorial debut and given his brilliant direction, it won’t be his last. Known for his screenwriting skills with award-winning films such as “A Few Good Men,” “The Social Network,” and television shows such as “The Newsroom,” and “The West Wing,” it’s obvious with “Molly’s Game” that he has a vision and can bring that vision to life on the screen via his directorial skills as well.
The right cast is a must and this film is loaded with A-listers who bring humor and depth to even the smallest of roles. Michael Cera portrays “Player X,” a self-absorbed Hollywood big wig and Chris O’Dowd is the lovable loser. Graham Greene finds wisdom and believe it or not, humor, in his role as Judge Foxman and we find ourselves filled with anger as we see the effects of Costner’s harshness as a father to Molly. Every character actor stands out, each giving it all in their performance.
Then we have Chastain who is one of the most versatile actresses in Hollywood. She finds that shrewd intelligence and edginess to her performance that we saw in “Miss Sloane” and the depth to her integrity she exhibited in “The Zookeeper’s Wife.” With Molly, however, there’s a sage and jaded aspect that allows her to rise above those around her while she maintains a connection to her younger and more vulnerable and loving self. The story-line and the character are equally complicated and just as enjoyable as we peel away all the layers to her personality and her story..
In addition, there’s certainly a chemistry between Alba and Chastain on screen. It’s one of respect both in character and one that is exhibited naturally. They are both powerful personalities both on and off the screen and together they create mesmerizing interactions and dialogue. Both Alba and Chastain become their respective characters and deliver performances that are both memorable and meaningful.
“Molly’s Game” uses a non-linear storytelling technique to give us a complete picture. Editing is key in conveying the story, particularly one that is rather complex without making it confusing. However, given the film’s long running time, a bit more editing of non-essential information could have paired down the film, creating an even more intense film that doesn’t have any lulls. While this is a perceived flaw in the film, it is certainly not a detrimental one as the story and performances are exceptionally strong. Whenever you have a film that gives us a ‘truth is stranger than fiction’ premise, it becomes an even more entertaining one.
“Molly’s Game” is an intense and unexpected thriller based on Molly Bloom’s life as a competitive Olympic ski athlete who then ran the largest and most high-profile gambling ring in the world. She must defend her changed and honest ways and has only one hope—her lawyer. Great performances, fast-paced dialogue and a unique storyline make this film one of the top films of the year.
3 1/2 Stars