Molly’s Game is the story of Molly Bloom, a promising Olympic class skier. After a devastating accidental fall during a qualifying meet, Molly gave up her athletic pursuits and went to work for a real estate mogul. One night he assigned her to manage his high stakes poker game. Molly thus found a new outlet for her tightly wound, highly intelligent, over-achieving personality. Soon she was singlehandedly hosting her own very high stakes game played regularly by celebrities in the entertainment, sports and business worlds.

This story is made fascinating by Aaron Sorkin’s dialogue and Jessica Chastain’s portrayal of what I would describe as a wounded hawk in a cocktail dress. Not one to ever be satisfied with a with a spot in the background, by her mid 20’s Bloom was organizer of an underground poker enterprise whose regulars included Hollywood celebrities, athletic stars, business tycoons and the Russian mob.

This is the directorial debut for Sorkin, who also wrote the screenplay based on Molly Bloom’s book. Sorkin is a genius at packing meaning and emotion into a concise and rhythmic barrage of dialogue. The musical movements of his films are carried by his words – as if moving downstream on a river’s current. Excellent cinematography and editing also make this film work. The opening is a great set up of the emotional hues of the story. Some flashbacks could have been kept at the beginning of the story, as they tended to interrupt the flow.

Chastain is a true chameleon and here plays a character similar to her role in Miss Sloan. However, Molly has hidden emotional damage. Yet it seems that each psychological wound makes her stronger. Chastain’s portrayal is perfect. Michael Cera is well cast in a role that seems to be a composite of A-List movie stars who were some of the real Molly’s players. When he first enters the screen, presumably playing himself, the audience does the same doubletake as Molly would have done when these celebs entered her room.

Molly was successful in her endeavor because of her troubled relationship with her father. She had an instinctive understanding of the psychology of narcissistic men with an addiction for power. This comprehension played itself out in the microcosm of her poker games. Molly’s Game is a very timely film at this moment of upheaval in the balance of the relationship between men and women. There are women who due to their upbringing have had the advantage of absorbing a sort of doublethink – to think like females on one plane yet to be able to see into a male thought pattern on another. They are often able to outwit men at their own game because they can see into it from outside the box.

In the end you will see that Molly was not in the game to beat or destroy her players. Her goal was to respect and be respected on common ground. Is that so much to ask? James Joyce himself would have fun with Molly’s tale. Her namesake “Molly Bloom” in Joyce’s “Ulysses” says in her famous soliloquy, “and I knew I could always get round him and I gave him all the pleasure I could…”

 

Kathryn Whitney Boole has spent most of her life in the entertainment industry, which is the backdrop for remarkable adventures with extraordinary people. She is a Talent Manager with Studio Talent Group in Santa Monica. kboole@gmail.com. For previously published reviews see https://kwboole.wordpress.com

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