tue 24/04/2018

Molly's Game review - Jessica Chastain gets her poker face on | reviews, news & interviews

Molly's Game review - Jessica Chastain gets her poker face on

Molly's Game review - Jessica Chastain gets her poker face on

Aaron Sorkin's directorial debut is a high-octane gambling thriller

Defence strategy: Molly Bloom (Jessica Chastain) in court with Charlie Jaffey (Idris Elba)

After her brittle and unloveable turn in John Madden’s Washington-lobbyist drama Miss Sloane, Jessica Chastain gets the chance to do it again, properly. This is thanks to Aaron Sorkin, whose directing debut Molly’s Game is. More to the point, his screenwriting is back at full blast, so while the verbiage is typically plentiful, it’s also barbed, speedy and pointed enough to cause nosebleeds and razor-cuts.

Sorkin has adapted the true-life confessions of the real Molly Bloom and her wild ride running high-stakes underground poker games (“From Hollywood’s Elite to Wall Street’s Billionaire Boys Club”, as her book jacket put it). The result carries echoes of other films like the card-counting yarn 21 or dodgy-derivatives odyssey The Big Short, but while thrillingly depicting Bloom’s voyage through a perilous shadow-world, Sorkin has also crafted a skilful psychological study of his protagonist. Bloom’s ascent to top-dollar notoriety only occurs after her youthful ambition of becoming an Olympic skier has crashed in a heap at the bottom of the mountain, and she only manages to make sense of it all after her relationship with her bullying father Larry (a superb Kevin Costner) comes full circle. A little too pat? Possibly, but it makes great cinema.Molly's GameIt's the story of one woman's bold and coolly-planned incursion into an aggressively male world, but it might also be read as a cautionary tale about the dangers of pushy parenting. Driven by her relentless dad, and competing with two ultra-gifted younger brothers, Molly can’t stop until she’s made herself a super-success at something, even if it does get her beaten up by the Russian mafia and lands her in the clutches of the FBI.

Starting out as a waitress in LA, she catches the eye of a loathsome property developer called Dean Keith (Jeremy Strong), who treats her like a pail of garbage but does recruit her to help run his covert poker operation. Smart Molly systematically learns the ropes (not least the arcane language of the card sharps) and gets to know the players, an intriguing mix of directors, gambling junkies, businessmen and a movie star known as Player X (Michael Cera), allegedly based in part on actor Tobey Maguire. When nasty Dean turns even uglier, Molly knows it’s time to strike out on her own.

Molly's GameThere’s quite a bit of insider-action and gambling jargon to digest, but you don’t need to understand any of it to get the gist of the story. Tiring of the antics of some of her clients, Molly takes her game to New York. Taking aim at the denizens of Wall Street, she charges customers $250K to play, and hires a squad of super-capable ex-Playboy Bunnies as staff. However, this is no escort service – one notable feature of Molly’s Game is the absence of sex from its 140-minute running time – but rather the creation of a “man cave” atmosphere of testosterone and decadence, in which dropping half a million bucks at the tables might easily happen to anyone. Molly herself is transformed into the hottest hostess in town, a vamp in clingy bandage dresses and daring décolletage. But when her successful courtship of the moneyed super-elite attracts the brutal attentions of the Russian mob, she begins to learn the painful downside of over-achievement.

Sorkin continues to enjoy himself hugely as the piece moves into its courtroom endgame. There’s some sparky crossing of swords with the FBI’s investigators, a neat little cameo for Graham Greene as Judge Foxman, and a superb performance from Idris Elba in possibly his best big-screen role to date as Molly’s battling defence lawyer, Charlie Jaffey. If justice is to be seen to be done, there will be Oscars in the wind.

@SweetingAdam

Sorkin's dialogue is barbed, speedy and pointed enough to cause nosebleeds and razor-cuts

rating

Editor Rating: 
5
Average: 5 (1 vote)

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