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Thursday, January 18, 2018


This movie about high-end celebrity gambling is distinguished by a sparkling script from Aaron Sorkin who also makes his debut as a director. (Review by Patrick Compton - 8/10)

This true-to-life portrait of the rise and fall of a “poker princess” in Los Angeles and New York features a richly wordy script from Aaron Sorkin who first came to light with his Oscar-winning script for The Social Network.

Sorkin has adapted Molly Bloom’s 20014 memoir in which she recounted how she shifted from being a freestyle skiing Olympic hopeful from Colorado to a woman who ran underground poker games for the rich and (in)famous.

The movie, which stars an impressive Jessica Chastain as Molly, has three time frames that are cleverly combined: the immediate past in which we follow Molly’s rise to prominence on the poker tables; the more distant past as a potential Olympic skier, rebelling against her dictatorial father (Kevin Costner), and the present in which Molly – arrested and arraigned in connection with her gambling games – seeks help from a top lawyer (Idris Elba). The various parts of this 135-minute movie are effectively knitted together by Chastain’s twin roles as principal character and narrator.

This is a movie that shows off Sorkin’s talents as a scriptwriter who specialises in witty, rapid-fire dialogue as well as extended monologues. Fans of his previous movie scripts, such as A Few Good Men and Steve Jobs, as well as TV series The West Wing, will know what to expect. On this occasion, however, he not only writes the script but makes his directorial debut.

Chastain, who was nominated last month for a Golden Globes best actress award for this role, has the tough task of appearing in virtually every scene with a mountain of words to impart. She carries off her complex character splendidly, helped by a costume designer who goes to great lengths to expose her impressive cleavage at almost every opportunity.

The best part of the movie focuses on Molly’s rise to power as a poker madam who collects Hollywood celebrities, business moguls and even some members of the Russian mob to play big-dollar poker games in luxurious hotel suites. For the most part, the glamorous Molly manages to stay on the right side of the law, though this is palpably not the case with some of her clients.

Inevitably, perhaps, Molly falls foul of mobsters, drugs and the feds which leads to her hiring a pricey lawyer. The sparkling verbal interplay between the pair offers some of the movie’s most enjoyable moments.

If there is a weakness, it is the scenes towards the end where Molly’s remorseful psychologist father improbably comes back into her life. Here, the quality of the dialogue dips sharply as her dad tries to explain her radical life-change. For the rest, however, this is a verbally dynamic biopic which features one of Chastain’s best performances.

Molly’s Game opened at Gateway on January 12. – Patrick Compton