Molly’s Game

Directed by Aaron Sorkin who is best known for creating the Emmy Award-winning TV series The West Wing and writing the Oscar-winning screenplay for the 2010 movie The Social Network, Molly’s Game is a well-crafted film from a talented screenwriter in his directorial debut that tells a remarkable story and is marked by terrific acting performances and a first-rate script. The plot revolves around the true story of Molly Bloom, brilliantly played by Oscar nominee Jessica Chastain, who runs one of the most exclusive high stakes poker games after a career-ending injury as a Olympic-level skier. She finds herself desperate for a job after moving to Los Angeles and is enlisted by her jerk of a boss to help put on a weekly poker game attended by Hollywood actors, powerful businessmen, and other influential men. The movie is a series of flashbacks recounting her rise from this first arrangement and through the high stakes poker community to establishing her own game first in Los Angeles and later in Manhattan. She narrates her own life story to her defense attorney Charlie Jaffey, played by the always outstanding Golden Globe winner Idris Elba, after she finds herself in trouble with the FBI for possible connections to the Russian mafia. Much of her legal problems stem from the fact that she published a memoir about her days in the legally dubious poker world. Because of her position in the world of gambling, Molly’s wealth garnered from poker is frozen by the government, and she must convince authorities she was unaware of the most damaging allegations, particularly the involvement of several criminal organizations. Besides telling her fascinating story, the filmmaker also does an excellent job of providing a glimpse into the shadowy world of high stakes poker and its popularity with power brokers and well-known celebrities. For instance, the character known as Player X, played by Michael Cera, is supposed to represent a composite of Leonardo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire, Ben Affleck, and other Hollywood actors who likely attended Molly’s poker games. The movie’s energy is greatly enhanced by the hallmarks of an Aaron Sorkin production: many scenes comprise of clever and fast-paced dialogue to underscore the high-stakes that Molly faces gambling with powerful men and the federal government. Overall, I found it to be an entertaining movie that tells a truly unbelievable story about the largely unknown world of underground poker and is captivating for most of the time despite some rather slow and drawn-out moments.

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