TIFF 2017: Molly’s Game

molly_sgame_02

Molly Bloom (Jessica Chastain) has been a fierce competitor all her life. If not for a freak accident on the slopes, she would probably have a few Olympic gold medals and numerous sponsorship deals. Unfortunately, Bloom’s life took a different turn after her skiing career abruptly came to an end. Working as a personal assistant, whose duties included being a hostess at a high stakes poker game for the Hollywood elite, she soon discovered a new and unexpected calling.

Learn everything she could about the game of poker, and the high-profile individuals she encountered, including a famous actor whom she only refers to as Player X (Michael Cera); Bloom quickly realized the earning potential if she ran her own game. Dubbed the “Princess of Poker”, Bloom ended up running the most exclusive poker games in America. Attracting everyone from business tycoons to celebrities to wealthy individuals with questionable criminal associations, her thriving enterprise also brought her unwanted attention from the FBI, who were quietly building a case against several of her clients.

It is hard to discuss Molly’s Game, Aaron Sorkin’s directorial debut, without mentioning its entertaining script. Sorkin’s strength as a writer is on display in every scene of this dialogue heavy film. The sly jokes fly at such a rapid pace that it is easy to miss bits of conversation due to the audience’s uproarious laughter.

The film clearly wants to show that Bloom was frequently underestimated by the men she encountered, despite frequently being the smartest person in the room. However, Sorkin occasionally diminishes the glow of her numerous achievements whenever he focuses on her relationship with father (Kevin Costner). The build up to the final father/daughter confrontation never feels as satisfying as when watching Bloom carve out her own path.

Fortunately, Jessica Chastain’s performance is so blisteringly good that one can easily overlook some of the film’s flaws. Similar to the way in which Julia Roberts brought a mixture ofstrength and compassion to the roll of Erin Brockovich, Chastain ensures that Bloom is a fully realized character. She displays Bloom’s cold and calculating side, compassion, her vulnerability, and her fierce loyalty. This is especially true when observing Bloom’s interactions with her lawyer Charlie Jaffey (Idris Elba).

Featuring an ensemble cast – which includes Chris O’ Dowd, Jon Bass and Bill Camp – that nicely captures the rhythm of Sorkin’s pacing, Molly’s Game is a crowd-pleaser worth betting on.