Molly’s Game, directed by Aaron Sorkin, is a drama that centers around the true story of Molly Bloom (Jessica Chastain), a former Olympic skier, who eventually gets caught up in the underground world of high-stakes gambling. Based on Bloom’s memoir Molly’s Game: From Hollywood’s Elite to Wall Street’s Billionaire Boys Club, My High-Stakes Adventure in the World of Underground Poker, the film explores the dark reality of gambling, racketeering, addiction, and how deep people can get before everything comes crumbling down.
The beginning of the film spends time developing Bloom’s background as an Olympic-caliber skier with potential to be the best. She is often prodded by her father, Larry (Kevin Costner), an overbearing perfectionist who pushes Molly to the brink of breaking down. After a devastating fall ends her skiing career, she attempts to take some time off to wind down in California. While out west, she is assigned by her aggressively misogynistic boss, Dean Keith (Jeremy Strong) to run an underground poker game with many celebrities, including actors, athletes, and Hollywood bigwigs. When Molly decides to start running her own game, it leads her to getting involved with some people connected with both the Russian and Italian mobs.
When Molly is arrested for racketeering charges, she is forced to get a lawyer. Once determining that Molly’s interpretation of what occurred is credible by reading her memoir, Attorney Charlie Jaffrey (Idris Alba) takes on her case in order to try to get Molly the justice she deserves. Alba serves as the moral compass throughout the film, and his perspective is one which would resonate with laymen.
Aaron Sorkin’s direction of the movie gives the audience the feeling of being involved in the games that are played throughout. The film describes how hands win through visuals and explains what different poker terms mean which allows a person who does not understand poker to follow the film and understand the mindset of the players. The film is long, but never seems to drag because of the constant suspense and good dialogue from the characters.
Although Molly Bloom refused to name names of real celebrities, stand-ins and amalgamations of real people are fun to watch throughout the movie. Michael Cera plays “Player X,” a rich actor who also doubles as a virtually unbeatable poker player. His intentions and affect waver throughout the movie, and Cera does a great job of playing a character that is well outside of his usual well-to-do nerd. The other players in the games portray the downward spiral addiction can cause, whether it be gambling, drugs, alcohol, or all three. Chris O’Dowd’s Douglas Downy is a down and out gambler with an alcohol problem, but plays the part with a very likable air to him. Harlan Eustice (Bill Camp) is a compulsive gambler who does not know when to call it quits. All of these secondary characters bring many different dynamics to the film to give the audience a litmus test about what is right and wrong.
Molly’s interactions with different members of the Russian and Italian mafias give insight into the inherent danger that is involved in illegal gambling and racketeering. With some wince-inducing scenes of intimidation and violence, the audience is exposed to the dark side of what seems like an otherwise party-filled, frat house card game.
Sticking with a recent common theme of the advantages and disadvantages of American greed and hubris, the film is an extremely interesting insight into the life of a person who had everything going for her, but allowed it to slip away. The commentaries on the current state of American media and the TMZera that contemporary celebrities have to deal with is also very evident throughout. The movie is definitely worth seeing, and is entertaining and interesting throughout.