3.5 out of 5 stars
'Life, like poker has an element of risk. It shouldn't be avoided. It should be faced.' Edward Norton
Experts say that gambling has a similar impact on the body's neurological system as engaging in sport. The endorphins released when playing these games of chance are the key driver for people to go for prolonged periods of time around the poker table. It makes sense that Molly Bloom (Jessica Chastain) could be drawn into both of these high stake worlds and succeed. Coupled with the writing talents of Aaron Sorkin (West Wing), the biographical sketch of Molly’s Game has loads of potential to win big or potentially bust.
Bloom was a champion skier who was driven by her father (Kevin Costner) to excel in all areas of life including competitive sports and education. After her Olympic career in mogul skiing ended abruptly, she looked to go on to future scholastic efforts. During this season of her life, she took a part-time job as a personal assistant to a man who ran an exclusive high-stakes poker game to the elite of Hollywood and business. Molly became the key to the game's success and helping to raise the profile by building relationships with the players and recruiting more well-known card players. Over a decade she went from coast to coast and grew her game and reputation until the FBI shows up at her door. Partnering with defence lawyer Charlie Jaffey (Idris Alba), they strive to clear her name, keep her out of jail and not expose the people who played in her games.
Aaron Sorkin has an excellent reputation as a writer in theatre, television and film, but this is his first venture as the director. All things point towards a winning hand with the talent behind and in front of the camera combined with an intriguing story with extensive vernacular possibilities. The most significant challenge for this first time director is to know when to cut his screenplay, knowing when to make a film that is known as much for being a great film as it is for its exceptional writing. Sorkin was given the right starting hand and only overplayed it a bit.
He has the support for his signature style of quick dialogue and rich characterisation by the acting abilities of Chastain and Alba. They both encapsulate their roles with skill and confidence that help to carry things through, even when Sorkin seems to lose director focus. The main character must spend a good portion of her time behind a computer screen but the colourful crowd that surrounds Molly provide the necessary distractions to move the story to its conclusion. Kevin Costner, Michael Cera, and Chris O’Dowd add the multi-dimensional aspects to the storyline and make up for Sorkin’s inability to cut from his script. Even though the film was about a woman who ran a sought-after ring of poker games, reducing some of the poker games from the final cut would have improved the final product.
Aaron Sorkin has proven that he can bring seemingly uninteresting elements of the human experience to vibrancy in his writing. Moneyball and The Social Network are some fine examples. As a director, he has to prove if he can measure up to his writing abilities. Molly’s Game is a good beginning and should be a catalyst for future projects for the award-winning writer.
REEL DIALOGUE: What is in a name?
A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favour is better than silver or gold. The rich and the poor meet together; the Lord is the maker of them all. Proverbs 22:1-2
What is in a name? In our society, it is easy to forget the value of your own reputation, until it is challenged in the workplace or on Facebook. Within these two areas, you can begin to see the value of a good name. This is the key factor in why Molly Bloom chose to endure the legal issues in her life. Her motivation was to salvage what was left of her name. In the end, she determines that it is the only thing she really has left in her life.
When evaluating life, this is a truth that echoes throughout time. As seen in the words of Solomon, one's reputation is all that you are left with at the end of the day. His words and other wise words found throughout the Bible show the world how they can protect their name now and into eternity.