Released Limited December 25, 2017
Released Wide January 5, 2018
Rated R (Language, Drug Content, Some Violence)
2 hr. 20 min.
Directed and Written by Aaron Sorkin (A Few Good Men, Steve Jobs)
Cinematography by Charlotte Bruus Christensen (The Hunt, Fences)
Music by Daniel Pemberton (The Man from U.N.C.L.E., King Arthur: Legend of the Sword)
Edited by Alan Baumgarten (Zombieland, American Hustle), Elliot Graham (X-Men 2, Superman Returns), and Josh Schaeffer (You’re the Worst, The Last Man on Earth)
Produced by Mark Gordon (Saving Private Ryan, War Dogs), Matt Jackson (End of Watch, The Journey), and Amy Pascal (Spider-Man: Homecoming, The Post)
Starring Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty, Interstellar), Idris Elba (Beasts of No Nation, Thor: Ragnarok), Kevin Costner (Dances with Wolves, Open Range), Michael Cera (Juno, Superbad), Jeremy Strong (The Judge, The Big Short), Chris O’Dowd (Bridesmaids, St. Vincent), Brian d’Arcy James (Spotlight, 13 Reasons Why), and Bill Camp (Loving, Midnight Special)
Molly’s Game houses an intriguing story. In the tradition of “based on a true story” crime flicks like Goodfellas, moments throughout Molly’s Game become even more interesting and exciting for the knowledge of their possible trueness, though we do often feel like some of our favorite moments may actually be manufactured by the filmmakers. Except, in this case, the movie actually hews quite closely to real life, with the exception of a few events being modified a bit for dramatic purposes, and for the compressing of a few different lawyers into the one fictional lawyer portrayed by Idris Elba. Molly Bloom herself was even a close consultant on this movie.
However, the closeness to the true story here might be a bit of a negative. Not that anything really needed to be changed, and the film gains believability through that, but Sorkin’s determination to portray the true story “as is” and yet still stuff it with his heavy (though stylish) Sorkin-style scenes and dialogue seems to overwhelm his ability to get at a real point or moral in the story.
Not every movie needs a moral, but every movie does need some sort of point, and I had a difficult time discerning the point of Molly’s Game. Much of the film holds high Molly’s integrity, especially in her tenacity and refusal to reveal the names and details of the people who played her games, except for those who had already been revealed by other depositions, etc. Yet she does, at times, give up parts of her integrity for gain, and the movie breezes past that. Then there’s the relationship between Molly and her father, which strongly wraps up the movie, but though the movie does touch on it briefly, the first two-quarters of the movie barely seem to care about this theme. Well, maybe, like in many Scorsese films, Sorkin wants to show us the consequences of certain deeds. . . But Molly ends up getting away – justly so, to be honest, as she was smart enough to completely detach herself – with most of what she did. And the most frustrating thing is, any of these three themes, if focused on, could have turned out fascinatingly.
Maybe Sorkin just admires Molly Bloom so much that he made this movie for her. Maybe that’s the point. Still, why . . . exactly . . . am I supposed to admire her? That’s my question.
I think this movie’s weaknesses are examples of a great screenwriter who knows how great he is directing his own movie and not having the sight to cut his script into a better film. You could use the excuse that this is Sorkin’s directorial debut, but he’s been around the film world too much to be cut any slack in that regard. There’s nothing wrong with an auteur. I love it when a writer can direct his own film and show us his full, complete vision. And Aaron Sorkin has written many great screenplays that were then turned into good films and TV shows (A Few Good Men, The West Wing, Charlie Wilson’s War, The Social Network, The Newsroom. . . the list goes on) by top-of-the-line directors, because they were able to take all of Sorkin’s fantastic material and prune it into an excellent film. Every script must be trimmed and transformed, and maybe Sorkin did some of that. I haven’t read the script. I can tell you, though, he just didn’t do quite enough. There are multiple superfluous moments, there’s the thematic problem I mentioned, and the dialogue – though it is in Sorkin’s awesome, trademark style – feels too practiced, even choreographed, to be realistic at all.
Still, there’s a lot of fun to be had here. Sorkin portrays the poker games in an easy-to-understand, tense, enthralling manner; the true story of Molly Bloom and her games is riveting; and the movie is an acting showcase. It’s worth the price of admission alone to watch acting heavyweights Chastain, one of our best, most intelligent actresses; Elba, ever classy and cool; Costner, always solid; and even Cera, who is never afraid of a degrading role; all of them playing out scenes written by Sorkin and speaking Sorkin dialogue
Molly’s Game isn’t a great film, but it is a fun one and interesting.
I’m going to give Molly’s Game a 70%.