TIFF 2017 Review: Molly’s Game is Aaron Sorkin’s Award-Worthy Directorial Debut
Aaron Sorkin is one of the most well-known writers in Hollywood. He is responsible for writing several award-winning films including A Few Good Men, Social Network, and Steve Jobs. In addition to his filmography, Sorkin has written several brilliant television series including The West Wing and HBO’s The Newsroom. Molly’s Game is his latest film but unlike his previous projects, Sorkin has finally decided to take a shot at sitting in the director’s chair on this one. The film tells the story of Molly Bloom (Jessica Chastain) and her eight-year career as an underground poker game runner. The film is an inside look at Molly’s rise to power as well as her falling out with celebrities, business tycoons, the FBI, and the Russian mob.
Prior to the World Premiere of Molly’s Game at the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival, there were rumors circulating around the web that Molly’s Game was going to be a major disappointment. Luckily, I knew better and didn’t let some silly internet gossip change my decision to see the film at its World Premiere. The film opens up with a scene of Molly skiing at the Olympics while explaining what is about to unfold. The dialogue in this sequence is very quick and very Sorkin if you get my drift. Molly has an incident on the slopes and we see her fly through the air and land on her back leaving her no other choice but to retire as an Olympic skier. It is an incredible opening and one that sets up the rest of the film.
Molly moves to West Hollywood and begins to work at a club before getting a job at a real-estate office. Her boss Dean (Jeremy Strong) asks her to sit in on some of his poker games and Molly sees this as the perfect opportunity to learn a new skill. She writes down everything and pays close attention to everyone that attends which just so happens to be a slew of successful businessmen and celebrities. She begins to learn the poker world and gets the idea that she can start her own poker game with bigger odds. This is where the fun begins as we see Molly move up in the high-stakes poker world and become one of the most successful game runners of all time.
Sorkin takes Molly’s incredible story and gives it new life on the big screen. He understands that he has to stick to the facts but he isn’t afraid of adding his quick and sharp dialogue into the mix. Sorkin’s writing is just as strong as always with several moments of dialogue that will make you want to stand up and cheer. Molly’s world in which Sorkin brings to life is filled with interesting and well-crafted characters. He is the master, not only of writing sharp and clever dialogue but of creating characters that stand out and are memorable.
Jessica Chastain has once again blown me away with a tour-de-force performance as Molly Bloom. Chastain is at the top of her game in this role. Molly Bloom is a strong female who doesn’t take shit from anyone and isn’t afraid of failing. Chastain has the incredible ability to take Sorkin’s dialogue and bring it to life with such energy and emphasis. It almost feels as though she was born to speak Sorkin’s language. Molly Bloom isn’t an easy person to bring to life but Chastain does it with such ease. She is such a pro at playing strong female characters and each one she brings to life is much different from the last.
Idris Elba is fantastic as Molly’s lawyer Charles Jaffe. Elba holds his own and lights up the screen. Charles is a key role in Molly’s story because a good chunk of the film revolves around Molly explaining what really happened. This is the strongest that I have seen Elba in quite some time. He has an amazing scene in court where he speaks up about Molly’s case and how he feels that she is innocent. It’s a great moment and one that will remind you as to why Sorkin is known as one of the great writers in Hollywood.
The supporting cast here is great all around. You can tell that Sorkin handpicked each actor to play each role. While there are far too many people to name, I do want to point out two supporting performances that really stood out, Michael Cera as Player X and Brian d’Arcy James as Bad Brad. Cera’s Player X is supposed to resemble a very high profile celebrity whose name was obviously changed. He seems to have a soft spot for Molly and helps her launch her career in the poker world. Cera is great in this smaller role and is a pivotal character in the story. d’Arcy James as Bad Brad is just a fun and memorable character. He is the guy who stands out and shouldn’t be in the room but you can’t help but be amused by him.
As a director, Aaron Sorkin seems to have picked up some tips from a lot of his director friends. There are hints of Rob Reiner and David Fincher throughout. He shoots a lot of scenes where the actors feel larger than life and then others that feel very intimate. The opening sequence, in particular, showing Molly’s skiing incident is particularly well shot. Sorkin definitely has an eye for detail and a bright future as a director. I hope that he continues to direct and write simultaneously.
While I don’t have major issues with the film, I would like to point out that there was one scene where there were far too many quick cuts and fades. It was very strange because it only happened once in the film. I would also like to say that the film does feel a tad bit too long at 2 hrs and 20 minutes. While I was engaged and entertained throughout, I would be lying if I didn’t admit that I got a bit antsy towards the end. It would be hard to note what exacts should be trimmed down but I am sure if I saw it again, I would be able to pinpoint a few scenes that could be a bit tighter.
All in all, Molly’s Game is engaging, exciting, and entertaining from beginning to end. It is an award-worthy directorial debut from Aaron Sorkin and I wouldn’t be surprised if Chastain received a nomination for her jaw-dropping performance as Molly Bloom. For someone who doesn’t know or care about poker, Sorkin has left me intrigued. Molly’s Game is a fantastic film and one that you will be hearing a lot more about come award season.
Scott ‘Movie Man’ Menzel’s rating for Molly’s Game is a 9 out of 10.