TL;DR
  • Captivating plot, but starts to run out of steam in the second half
  • Poker games are fun and exciting
  • The script is perfect, with plenty of examples of witty, snappy dialogue
  • Wonderful cast – particularly Elba and Chastain
  • A promising directorial debut

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Much like Tarantino, Aaron Sorkin has come to be known for his writing; impressive, snappy dialogues that have a real impact, are clever and funny and certainly add to a film’s quality. However, unlike Tarantino, he’s not known for his directing – yet. Confined for the most part to screenwriting, Molly’s Game signifies a first for Sorkin, letting him trying his hand at directing as well as writing, something many have hoped to see for some time. So how does his directorial debut fare? On the plus side, Molly’s Game is an enjoyable, well-done film that sucks you in and gives you a captivating plot with the sort of snappy and detailed script we have come to expect from this master writer. Despite this, there’s still not much that lets the film stand out and be special – as you might guess, Sorkin’s script stands out the most. Still, this doesn’t mean he should hang up the directing hat just yet, because there’s plenty to enjoy in his debut.

Having moved to Los Angeles to escape her high-maintenance father (Kevin Costner) and failed Olympic skiing career, Molly Bloom (Jessica Chastain) gets a job as a secretary, requiring her at times to organise her boss’s private poker games, with an assortment of wealthy players (such as Michael Cera’s Player X). Soon though, Molly breaks free and organises her own private poker games, skirting around the edges of the law. Soon the authorities catch up with her and her only chance lies in explaining everything to charismatic lawyer, Charlie Jaffey (Idris Elba).

The story is an intriguing one (especially since it’s based on reality) and the writing emphasises this, really sucking you in from the beginning. But watching countless poker games and listening to complex legal jabber weighs the film down, making it run out of steam about halfway through. Though frequent, the poker games are exciting and rarely cease to entertain, with Sorkin managing to make the tension on the table jump through the screen to the audience. This extends to other elements, particularly the way it’s filmed and the narration by Chastain. The style and visuals are impressive for a first-time director and work very well – clearly Sorkin understands what makes film a special and unique medium. However the process of building the ‘business,’ while initially fun, ends up wearing thin as things get more complicated, slightly repetitive and not explained too much. On top of this, flicking back and forth from the poker games to Molly’s scenes with Jaffey, complicate the narrative in an already slightly complex plot (although with a character like Jaffey being played by Elba, it’s very welcome to have him peppered throughout the movie). Sorkin also certainly adds messages and a heart to his film, but this can often be lost in the end amongst the beefy plot.

Despite the occasionally convoluted plot however, so long as an audience has enough attention, it’s not too hard to jump back on board if you get lost. This is mostly due to fantastic writing, something we have come to expect (although still take for granted) from Sorkin. Whatever flaw that can be found in the film, can equally be made up for by witty, fast-paced writing, which embellishes the whole film and adds a tremendous amount of depth to the characters. Once again he proves himself to be one of the master bards of our generation. At times though you just want the script to slow down and relax, for us to feel comfortable and not be prepared for constant verbal jousting; it can be exhausting, especially around the point where the film begins to run out of steam.

Still it’s brought back to life and we’re made to be constantly aware and entertained by the wonderful cast who are all on top of their game. With a decent supporting cast including the likes of Michael Cera, who seems to slowly be distancing himself from Superbad’s Evan (a character he seems to play frequently), Chris O’Dowd and Kevin Costner, proving to be a much more interesting father than in Man of Steel. The centre-point of the film revolves around Idris Elba and, even more so, Jessica Chastain, who really are the heart and soul of the movie – along with the script, of course; but who knows how this script could have fared with another cast? They are both excellent and play off each other very well, their scenes with one another electric at all times. Chastain is the one who really steals the scenes though, consistently captivating to watch and apparently effortlessly showing the progression of Molly.

All in all, Molly’s Game is an impressive first time directing for Sorkin and shows his transition from writing to directing will hopefully be a smooth one, particularly if he can direct his own wonderful scripts. At times you can tell he consulted with friend and fellow director David Fincher (with whom he worked with for The Social Network), so I think we’re yet to really see his own style and what he can really bring to the director’s chair. A promising debut with a top-notch script, intriguing plot and excellent performances from the leads, Molly’s Game is a winning hand.

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