Aaron Sorkin created TV’s "West Wing" and "The Newsroom," and won an Oscar for his script for "The Social Network." Now he makes his feature film directing debut with "Molly’s Game."
You may not know Molly Bloom’s name but she was an Olympic class skier who suffered a career-ending injury and then ran an exclusive high stakes poker game that attracted Hollywood celebs and the FBI’s attention. As played by Jessica Chastain, Molly’s a smart, type A personality who seems able to adapt to any situation and who can succeed at anything she puts her mind to even when idiot men get in her way.
Sorkin delivers a fast moving, highly engaging look at Bloom’s life. It's an entertaining film but saying that seems to make light of the fact that there were some dark moments in Bloom's life, including a brutal run in with the Russian mob.
It’s also refreshing to see a multi-faceted female character driving the plot and not distracted by romance. Bloom exists in a world where men are either trying to tell her what to do (her demanding overbearing father or her well-intentioned lawyer) or they are simply jerks intimidated and threatened by her intelligence, competency and assurance.
At one point her lawyer Charlie Jaffey (Idris Elba) tries to convince her to spin the facts of her case to make her appear as nothing more than a glorified cocktail waitress working for the celebrity gamblers that Jaffey suggests they should paint as the ones running the show. By doing that, he says, she may get a more lenient sentence. But Bloom refuses. She rather take the consequences than deny the role she played in building a successful poker game for A-list people.
Similarly, she refuses to name the names of those A-listers to either the FBI or in a book because that's just not the way she rolls. Again Jaffey chimes in to remind her that cooperating with the FBI might lessen the charges and that putting celebrity names in a book could get her millions from a publisher. But again Bloom refuses to let men or circumstances dictate her behavior. Although she worked amongst gamblers and mobsters, Bloom had a steely integrity and code of ethics that she would not bend for anyone.
If you saw Chastain in "Miss Sloane" last year then you have essentially seen her Molly Bloom. Both films center on a female character that orchestrates everything in the film and is often the smartest person in the room. Both women, to differing degrees, also are willing to accept the consequences for the actions they choose to take. "Miss Sloane" felt more outlandish because it was fiction yet "Molly's Game" sometimes seems as hard to believe yet it's based on real events. Bloom gets to be more human and flawed than Sloane, which makes her more interesting.
"Molly's Game" (rated R for language, drug content and some violence) proves that Sorkin knows how to bring a book to energetic life on the big screen. His trademark sharp dialogue is on display as well as his savvy sense of craft. Score "Molly's Game" as a win for Sorkin and Chastain. And for the real Bloom as well who is getting her story out there on her own terms.