Molly’s Game (2017) – Review

The new film Molly’s Game is the keenly awaited directorial debut of Aaron Sorkin. It is labelled as a crime drama and it follows the fortunes of “poker princess” Molly Bloom (played by Jessica Chastain) and her exclusive underground poker business.
With a $30 million budget, some star names, and a gripping story, this is set to be one of the most talked-about movie releases over the festive period, so what is it all about and how good is it?

What It Is About
Molly’s Game is an atmospheric movie that shows us how some of the world’s richest and most powerful men are drawn to the thrilling poker games that Molly runs every week in Hollywood. Molly had dreamed of becoming an Olympic skier but she was injured in an accident and ended up working as a cocktail waitress in LA before being asked to run these regular VIP poker games.
She attracts a wide range of players to her exclusive games, from wealthy businessmen to famous actors and even Russian gangsters and the Italian mob. This means that she eventually comes under close scrutiny from the FBI, who want her to name names to them. The tension of high-roller poker games provides some dramatic moments in the film, while the dogged investigation into the games that Molly runs threatens to send her to prison and ruin her life. She is put under pressure to tell the FBI all about the high profile people who took part in the games that she ran or run the risk of being the one who suffers the consequences.
She displays the tough side of her character by refusing to buckle under the intense pressure, though.

The Book That Inspired It
This movie is based on a book called Molly’s Game: From Hollywood’s Elite to Wall Street’s Billionaire Boys Club, My High-Stakes Adventure in the World of Underground Poker that was written by Molly Bloom. It is an incredible read that tells an enthralling story of a cocktail waitress who ended up counting out $100,000 in buy-ins when running her first private poker session for the stars.
The popularity of this book and the fact that poker is now so widely-played and fashionable mean that the subject matter is likely to attract a lot of attention. Given that it is so easy to play poker online and even learn strategies just by visiting sites such as 888poker, who has even come up with its own brand new game formats, it should be easy for viewers with any sort of interest in the game to follow the action and understand the poker terms used.
Indeed, research suggests that close to 10% of the US adult population plays poker regularly, while the worldwide total of players is estimated at some 40 million. Really, the film is so much better once you know that it is based on the real-life experiences of Molly Bloom. Many of the names of those who played in her games have been changed, so we are left to wonder who the famous gamblers that attended actually were. Leonardo DiCaprio, Ben Affleck, and Tobey Maguire are among the few stars who frequented her games in the basement of the legendary Viper Room bar on Sunset Strip that she has named publicly.

The Cast

Jessica Chastain has already received a lot of praise for her powerful performance as Molly. She strikes the right balance as the smart, quick-witted woman who gets caught up in a massive illegal gambling network that could ruin her life and is under-estimated by just about everyone else.
Idris Elba plays her criminal defense lawyer Charlie Jaffey, who begins to look behind the public persona that has been built up around Molly in order to understand her more. Kevin Costner plays Molly’s therapist father, Larry Bloom, and he delivers an interesting therapy session to her that really shows us what the film is all about. Chris O’Dowd is Douglas Downey, and he is the man who brings Russian mob gamblers to Molly’s games. Other notable performances come from Michael Cera, Bill Camp, Jeremy Strong, and Natalie Krill.

Is It Any Good?
So far, Molly’s Game has received excellent reviews for its strong script and great acting performances. It got a couple of nominations for the 75th Golden Globe Awards and was well received when it premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival.
The critics have also been positive about the movie, with many highly rating both the overall firm and Chastain’s performance in particular.
If the idea of a movie about poker games doesn’t sound all that exciting to you, then you will be pleased to see that the writers and the actors have turned into a far more moving and gripping story than you might have imagined.
A few critics have suggested that the running time of 140 minutes may be a little much too time but the truth is that Molly’s Game crams in so much dialogue and action that it is hard to see where it could have been cut down. At the time of writing it has an 82% rating at Rotten Tomatoes and 7.4/10 at IMDb.

When Can You See It?
Molly’s Game was initially set for a release date in November, following its premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival in September the day before Brad’s Status was premiered there. However, the release ended up being December 25, 2017 in the US and January 5, 2018 elsewhere.

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