Who: Aaron Sorkin. Writer and Director (debut)
What: A crime/poker drama adapted from the book, "Molly's Game..."
Where: Set in Beverly Hills, CA and NY, NY. Shot in Canada.
When: In theaters now.
Why: Because Aaron Sorkin.
How: 30 million dollar budget. Mark Gordon and Amy Pascal produced.
I went to go see Molly's Game at the Arclight Hollywood tonight and this was my first impression: Aaron Sorkin thinks Aaron Sorkin is really awesome.
What I mean is: It was more like watching a screenplay at times than a movie because the characters talk so damn much. More than anyone ever talks in real life. And faster than anyone talks in real life. And they say rapid-fire, very clever things that only an actor with a script would ever say.
The dialog is so stylized and overbearing, I wasn't able to lose myself in an otherwise pretty cool story about a young woman, Molly Bloom, who managed to organize and run a couple of the most exclusive, high-stakes poker games in the world for almost ten years before being busted by the FBI.
The film is based on a book with a lengthy title: Molly's Game. From Hollywood's Elite to Wall Street's Billionaire Boys Club, My High-Stakes Adventure in the World of Underground Poker by Molly Bloom. It is the 'true' story of Molly Bloom, a young woman and former Olympic-hopeful downhill skier, who eventually became the host of a network of underground and exclusive high-stakes poker game in LA and New York for nearly a decade, before being arrested by the FBI. The players at her tables were Hollywood actors and directors, famous athletes, rappers, producers, hedge fund billionaires, trust fund brats and eventually the Russian mafia. With the help of her lawyer, Molly must face federal charges.
The movie takes place in a flashback/flash to present format where we begin with her being busted by the FBI and meeting the lawyer who would eventually defend her while bouncing back to elaborate reminiscences narrated by V.O. telling Molly's evolution from bottle service girl to Poker Empress.
But with Sorkin, where dialogue is concerned: More is More. And with him being the director, there was no one there to reign him in. So with Molly's Game, 'more is more' and then even more. 2 hours and 20 minutes more.
Molly is portrayed expertly by Jessica Chastain and her performance is both hilarious and sometimes tear-jerking. The struggles and addictions of her character are not only palpable, but she delivers with grace and conviction. Idris Elba played her lawyer, (apparently a fictional character created for the film). Elba is best known for playing Stringer Bell in the HBO series The Wire. Elba was not only able to motor-mouth all Sorkin's dialogue, but he was able to do it with emotion and bravado; turning in an Oscar-worthy role.
Kevin Costner...(what can I say? He's an icon!). Costner played Molly’s estranged father. My favorite scene in the film is actually a few minutes between he and Chastain on a bench in Central Park near the end of Act 2. This is the moment in the film where the two resolve their historically mangled father/daughter relationship. And it's a brilliant moment. Not only was it brilliantly acted, but the writing was pristine. Kudos to Sorkin here.
Michael Cera gives a strong performance as "Player X", supposedly a composite of Ben Affleck, Leo DiCaprio, Tobey Maguire and Matt Damon, who all or individually (allegedly) showed up at these games. But again, it's just a movie so who knows what's true?
Overall, this was a solid flick and on a "Go See it", "Go Stream It" or "Go See something else" scale, I'm going to give it a "Go Stream It." It's not a life changer, but it's a fun ride!
And, not to diss on Sorkin: he is a legend. For those not familiar, his TV works include The West Wing and The Newsroom and his films include A Few Good Men, The American President, Moneyball, and The Social Network, for which he won a Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar. So, what the hell do I know?
More reviews to come and until next time: Save the Drama for Your Mama.