- Product Rating -

Molly’s Game

| January 1, 2018

A revered screenwriter doesn’t make for a revered director, but the livelihood of Aaron Sorkin’s writing rose the possibility that his transition to being behind the camera would be smoother than most. With Molly’s Game, the writing becomes the directing and the directing becomes the writing, sometimes in welcome ways but also often in manners that prevent enough variation in tone and pacing. It’s a slick directorial debut, fast-paced but fatally overlong, making for a final product that’s never worse than mediocre but rarely able to escape the constraints of the one note that it plays for so much of its unwarranted 140-minute runtime.

Here, Sorkin recounts the true story of Molly Bloom (Jessica Chastain), an aspiring Olympic skier who, after suffering a chance accident, went on to run the most exclusive poker ring in the world. Based out of New York and Los Angeles, it ran for a decade and largely serviced movie stars and billionaires until it was shut down by the FBI due to money laundering and working with the Russian mafia. In a non-chronological structure that’s seeping with voiceover narration from Chastain, it also touches upon the dealing with the trial with lawyer Charlie Jaffey (Idris Elba) and Bloom’s relationship with her father (Kevin Costner). As a movie that opens with the epitome of Sorkin-y writing, it’s nearly impossible to attribute its voice to anyone aside from him, the back-and-forth between characters as sharp as a knife.

It’s the writing wherein most of the strengths of Molly’s Game lay—that goes without saying. The soul of Sorkin remains as smooth as silk and his dialogue is effortlessly cool, but while some of his other work may have been too quick to ring true, the structure of his latest justifies the polish. Its retrospective storytelling provides a revisionist voice to its protagonist as the audience watches the events unfold as she perceived them to. Chastain’s ability to rattle off her lines is not only entertaining, but she also illustrates confidence and understanding in what she’s saying, a lacking of which would have sank the movie from the beginning. She’s as charismatic as ever, and in some ways carries the movie on her shoulders.

It’s all brought together by editing so swift and joyous in its cutaways and inserts that it almost feels topical at times. The issue is that these positives last for the first hour of what is almost a two-and-a-half-hour movie. While Sorkin’s directing is energetic, it’s also very one-note. The lack of highs and lows make Molly’s Game exhausting at points—even uninteresting at times in an unexpected way. The tone of the film is as if Aaron Sorkin just directed an Aaron Sorkin script on its most basic level, and that’s because that’s probably what happened. While movies need not be sanded down, a sense of roughness around the edges provides for a feeling of unpredictability, and that is a sense that Molly’s Game lacks. Scenes are staged and executed fine, but there isn’t a ton of depth given that the movie mistakes flourish for foundation. The timeline of events is also hard to follow at times, and the often-strong editing occasionally gets too quick for its own good. Similarly, the voiceover narration is overbearing.

As a screenplay, Molly’s Game is good, and it’s even great at times. As a feature film, it’s less than the sum of its parts, and while those parts are nice to behold, they’re more laid into place than securely screwed in. Some movies are strolls, some are sprints, and some are marathons. This movie is a marathon-length sprint, and all of the stimulants that Molly herself gets hooked on halfway through the movie can’t be vicariously injected into the arms of audiences. After all of those drugs, it would have been nice if the movie took a chill pill instead of just more uppers.

About the Author:

Senior year film student at Columbia College Chicago, Hollywood Film Festival pre-screener, and Best Social Media Presence for North Farmington High School's 2014 senior mock elections. Firmly believes that ".gif" is pronounced "jiff".
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