My local cinema held a secret screening last night, and Molly’s Game was the surprise movie they showed. Beforehand, I’d probably only seen the name of the movie along with the accompanying poster and I had literally no idea what it was about. If I’d seen the trailer, and knew a bit more about the plot movie, I don’t think I’d have gone to watch it, but it actually turned out to be a pretty enjoyable movie. Despite the fact that there were about 10 other movies I was secretly hoping they’d screen instead, I wasn’t disappointed by this. That’s the gamble you take with a secret screening I guess.
Molly’s Game is based on a true story, and the accompanying book written by Molly Bloom. It’s written and directed by Aaron Sorkin, writer of, among other things, The West Wing and The Newsroom, so you get a pretty good idea of the quick-witted snappy dialogue that you’re in for. Jessica Chastain plays Molly, and she is just absolutely incredible in this movie. Not knowing the basic story it was based on, the opening scenes changed direction so many times that I was left wondering what the movie was actually going to be about and which direction it was headed. Narrated by Molly, we’re initially introduced to her life as an Olympic class skier. She describes her younger life training with her stern father (Kevin Costner), the spinal surgery which put her out of action for a while, her fight back to the top and the tragic accident which then put her out of action once more. Then we jump forward 12 years, where Molly is suddenly woken one morning by a phone call. It’s the FBI, and they want her to come out of her room within the next few minutes or they’re going to break down the door. When she does come out, she is cuffed and arrested for running high-stakes poker games. We then see her in the office of Charlie Jaffey (Idris Elba), a top (and expensive) lawyer who Molly would like to represent her. The remainder of the movie then switches between Molly narrating and filling us in on the events of the last decade or so leading up to now, and Molly and Charlie as they bicker and work together in piecing together her defence.
The first half of the movie is enjoyable as we follow Molly, working her way up from bored secretary to running hugely expensive poker games for the rich, famous and weird in Los Angeles and then New York. As mentioned earlier, Jessica Chastain is simply amazing, given a superb performance as we follow Molly from troubled child to shrewd, intelligent business woman and ‘poker princess’. At the height of her game she was legally raking in thousands of dollars each night, and even getting on the wrong side of the Russian mob. However, after a while it all starts to drag a little and I feel the movie could have benefited from a much tighter run time (it’s 160 minutes long). Things pick up again towards the end though, and Costner and Elba get their chance to shine. Well worth watching.