Molly's Game Review
Jessica Chastain is an actress who consistently impresses both audiences and critics alike, whether she stars in something grand and thought-provoking like Christopher Nolan's Interstellar or a film that is passable but nothing particularly groundbreaking, such as Guillermo del Toro's Crimson Peak (to be fair to del Toro, though, it would be incredibly challenging for him to top Pan's Labyrinth). Despite Chastain's evident acting ability, she does not seem to garner the attention or the accolades that beloved actresses like Jennifer Lawrence and Cate Blanchett frequently receive. A pity, as Chastain certainly deserves more recognition.
This is Aaron Sorkin's directorial debut. Sorkin has conjured up some of the most genius scripts of our time, most notably his Oscar-winning screenplay for The Social Network. His directing style feels as sharp as his written pieces; Molly's Game throws a lot of information at you but somehow manages to avoid becoming a huge mess. Most of the scenes feel extremely integral to the story, although some moments are dragged out and eventually outstay their welcome. But, for a first attempt at directing, Sorkin can give himself a pat on the back. He knows which points of the story are the most significant, and draws attention to them.
Based on a memoir, the film follows Molly Bloom (Jessica Chastain), a smart, confident ex-member of the US ski team who has had a bit of an attitude problem since she was a young girl, pointed out by her somewhat distant father (Kevin Costner). After an unfortunate incident leaves her unable to continue with the sport, Molly decides to set up an underground casino for various groups of people, including Hollywood stars, businessmen and, eventually, the Russian mob. Two years after she decides to give up her poker empire, an FBI investigation commences, and Molly is scrutinised by the media as a result.
The only person who appears to be capable of helping Molly out of this dilemma is Charlie Jaffey (Idris Elba), a lawyer who quickly begins to realise that there is more to Molly than what people have been led to believe. He also has a fun, good-natured relationship with Molly; for example, bringing up the fact that she shares her name with a character from James Joyce's famous novel Ulysses. The films that Elba has been a part of this year have, for the most part, not been well-received (the only bad one I saw was The Mountain Between Us, the criticisms were very much justified). But it was not Elba's fault that these films were terrible; very few actors could save them. Therefore, seeing Elba shine in Molly's Game was a joyous experience. This is Chastain's film, but he makes his character very likeable and charismatic with his conversational approach to the dialogue. Lawyer characters can be quite forgettable, but Elba makes his presence known.
Molly's Game is not without its drawbacks. It is a long film, and it probably could have been shortened. Some scenes would have benefitted from getting to the point quicker in order to maintain a flowing pace. There were also a few questionable accents mixed in here, notably Chris O'Dowd's, a comedic talent who really struggled to deliver a convincing American accent here. It can be rather distracting at times, but O'Dowd's character is amusing (one of the funniest characters in the film, in fact). The engaging dialogue and interesting characters, as well as Chastain's assured performance, are enough to get you through the more tedious moments.
It is wonderful to see a crime drama that feels innovative and original, although it follows numerous crime genre tropes. The fact that Molly's Game also features a stylish, cool and, above all, assertive female protagonist is the cherry on top.