TIFF 2017 Review: “Molly’s Game” An Exhilarating Directorial Debut for Sorkin
The directorial debut for famed writer Aaron Sorkin is Molly’s Game, a riveting tale of a former almost Olympic skier, Molly Bloom (Jessica Chastain) who ran the biggest high-stakes poker game in both Los Angeles and New York. Her reputation and unintentional and unbeknownst to her involvement with the Russian mob would make her a target of the FBI. The film tells the story of her life during her childhood and skiing career as well as her time running the game and her trial.
Aaron Sorkin pulls no punches from the very beginning of the film. It starts out with the same rapid-fire and cunning writing we associate so well with Sorkin as we learn about skiing from Molly. She outlines how her career was stopped before it could ever start and her sudden arrest in the middle of the night by the FBI. The rest of the film bounces seamlessly back and forth between the past with her skiing and family, the time when she was running the game, and her current trial and work with her lawyer (Idris Elba).
Not only is the writing by Aaron Sorkin exciting and engaging, but it is also informative. He has a meticulous way of explaining concepts to the audience. In this case, you didn’t need to know much about poker because the way he has written the film. The information you need to know is very accessible and doesn’t alienate the audience. His writing is beyond compare, and indeed, Aaron Sorkin is a treasure of our time. Furthermore, his chance to step behind the camera turns out to be an incredible accomplishment.
Jessica Chastain is dazzling in her poised and polished role as Molly Bloom. I love Jessica when she tackles these heavy-hitting roles that are strong female characters. She animates these characters in a way that no one but Jessica could do. This role is very akin to her role as Elizabeth in Miss Sloane and requires the wit and skill that Jessica Chastain hones so well. Alongside Molly is her lawyer, Charles Jaffe played by Idris Elba who is just invigorating. He gives a speech about her character toward the end of the film, and it brings up emotion in you that you weren’t even expecting. His dedication and emotional portrayal rounds out the film.
Kevin Costner plays Molly’s father, a psychologist and a huge source of conflict for Molly. While his character isn’t in the film much, he makes his limited screen time count. Molly’s father had a significant role in shaping the person she has become. When given the opportunity during her early phases of the preparation for trial, he tells Jessica that he can give her three years of therapy in a few minutes. In this rousing few minutes of the film, we are presented with an example of some of the writing that makes Aaron Sorkin so incredible. It is a spectacular combination of wit, humor, and raw emotion that brings out emotion without warning. We are face to face with some of our own most profound thoughts and don’t even know how a few minutes has brought us there.
Molly’s Game is a sure bet for Oscar nominations this year. The writing, directing, and acting creates the perfect mélange of drama, humor, and humility. Aaron Sorkin’s directorial debut is a triumph and has solidified his place in Hollywood as one of the best writers of our time. Jessica Chastain and Idris Elba give electrifying performances and make Molly’s Game one of the best films of the Toronto Film Festival.