Chew's Reviews - Molly's Game



By Gary Chew | December 23, 2017 |

Opens Christmas day   


Vince Lombardi and Red Saunders both used to say, “Winning isn't everything, it's the only thing.” If you research that comment, you'll find this well-known line may possibly have originated with Coach Saunders and not the Packer's iconic coach. But these are comments about a movie, not who got more points up on the scoreboard. Still, MOLLY'S GAME is everything about winning.

The lead character's name in this film, written and directed by Aaron Sorkin, is like something out of a James Joyce novel, except that our Molly Bloom in MOLLY'S GAME is a real person. In the movie, she's played by Sacramento native Jessica Chastain. Moreover, Ms. Chastain is cast almost perfectly since the real Molly Bloom is also good looking and intelligent. The non-fiction Molly Bloom … not the one married to Leopold ... initially came to some fame as an Olympic-class skier who was pushed by her pushy father: Larry, played by Kevin Costner. (Kevin is good doing a heavy.) The clever yet obedient Molly meets with bad luck one day on a slick ski slope, and doesn't win. Her father is angry at her for not giving him the thrill of victory, and having to suffer the agony of his daughter’s defeat, even though it was nothing she did on her skies. The  culprit that tripped Molly, causing her downfall, was a frozen twig hiding in the snow. 

The non-fiction Molly Bloom … not the one married to Leopold ... initially came to some fame as an Olympic-class skier who was pushed by her pushy father: Larry, played by Kevin Costner. (Kevin is good doing it heavy.) The clever yet obedient Molly meets with bad luck one day on a slick ski slope, and doesn't win. Her father is angry at her for missing out getting a high on victory. It wasn't anything Molly did on her skies; it was a frozen twig hiding in the snow that tripped her.

To make a review not longer than it needs to be, Molly takes up with running high dollar poker games, on the sly. The players are all wealthy, well-known men who keep their gambling habits under wraps. Most of these guys are really famous, but not clearly identified by the script. (You'll just have wonder who they are, if you're one to give a damn about such things.)

Molly is swept into this milieu after being hired as a sort of Girl Friday to do lots of stuff for a totally Donald Trump-type man … not rich or so infamous, though ... who bored the hell out of me. He's played Trump-like by Jeremy Strong. The character is called Dean. You're really gonna “love” Dean.

The script backs-and-forths in time, so attention must be paid, if the movie gains any of yours. Molly gets cross-haired by the FBI for breaking gambling laws. Her games are usually staged at five-star hotels with lots of free trimmings (food 'n' booze) for the players. The script says sex is in no way any part of the gig, however. I suggest you Google that for sure, as the screenplay has Molly the paragon of “no physical business” with clients or squealing about who they are, as well as what they do when not at the poker table. Speaking of no physical business: MOLLY'S GAME is devoid of sexual activity.  

Molly persuades a successful attorney (Charlie, played by Idris Elba) to represent her. Jail time is not out of the picture for this beautiful woman who seems to have a photographic memory. Chastain and Elba stand out in this piece; it spun out of Ms. Bloom's actual, same-titled book.

I remember the vintage auto racing film with Paul Newman, Joanne Woodward and Robert Wagner. It was titled, WINNING. It came back to me as I watched Molly's gaming. Paul won the race and Robert won over … for a while ... Joanne, who was married to Paul in the movie. I think I'm recalling clearly that it was 1969. I've always wondered if Paul and Joanne did this movie as proof of their really solid marriage.

The Sorkin script, for me, is shallow ... while painting Molly a super fine person, in spite of her wrong turns; all presented as outcomes of her father's extreme expectations. Some usable material might be submerged in the screenplay … known or unknown to Sorkin, I don't know. That message seems to me to be a cautionary suggestion to any American, especially given the politics of the day, to not get caught up in the tentacles of anybody remotely connected to Russian oligarchs and their attendant mobsters.

Coming late in the third act, a sudden shifting of gears throws Molly's relationship with her father in an alternate place, insofar as its trajectory. This occurs as they sit on a cold bench in a wintry park in New York City … which could be Central.

I'll fold with this: MOLLY'S GAME is a sports movie that, most of the time, plays with a full deck. It was as engrossing for me as when I watch guys play poker on cable TV. Last time I did that was 2002.

Copyright © 2017 by Gary Chew. All right reserved.






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