Molly’s Game

Studio: STX Entertainment
Directed by Aaron Sorkin

Dec 18, 2017 Web Exclusive
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Aaron Sorkin used to write scripts that mattered. From A Few Good Men to The West Wing and all the way up until The Social Network, he always found and explored interesting ironies and wrinkles in society. During his ascent to household-name status, however, instead of admiring the approach, we focused on the dialogue, which is kind of like complimenting an architect on the paint job instead of the house. And damn us all, Sorkin heard the praise and he listened. And for our sins, we’ve been given the likes of Studio 60, The Newsroom, and now Molly’s Game, a script so overwrought and self-important that it might actually trick a few people into thinking it’s good.

Molly Bloom (Jessica Chastain) is an elite skier whose career is ruined by a freak accident while attempting to qualify for the Olympics. She’s also an elite student and, after abandoning the slopes for Harvard Law, decides to take a gap year to enjoy the fun and sun of Los Angeles. She takes a part time admin job for a trashy real estate agent, whose rolodex somehow includes some pretty fancy Angelinos, who he gathers for a weekly game of high-stakes poker. It’s so high-stakes -- a $10,000 buy-in -- that he recruits Molly to buy the snacks, serve the drinks, and, most importantly, run the books. For this, the high-rollers tip her well. So well that she’s driven to learn more about poker and the strategies that go into running a game. Soon, she’s out-leveraged her boss and runs the game herself, but the fun doesn’t stop there, as a mixture of ambition and circumstance lead her to eventually hosting in New York penthouses with buy-ins of up to $500,000. Of course, none of that comes without a cost, and Molly’s buy-in is sobriety, legitimacy, safety, and self-identity.

This is the first movie Aaron Sorkin has directed himself, and it’s not entirely clear why. For such an insane story, it’s incredibly hollow, with few recurring characters -- her father (Kevin Costner) and lawyer (Idris Elba) are the exception, providing non-linear reprieves from the story -- and therefore few opportunities for conflict and development. There are actually few opportunities for Sorkin’s patented dialogue -- in the truest sense of the word, this requires at least two people -- as the majority of the film is narrated by Molly. Now, you might think a monologue is Sorkin’s time to shine, but what you get is something of a Goodfellas-lite: narration capable of guiding us through the crazy path of A-to-Z, but is written in a way that’s so pompous and self-aware that the storytelling, with few exceptions, is not experiential. What is it then? All in all, little more than an excuse for people to marvel at the wit of Aaron Sorkin. For some people, that might be OK -- after all, people still defend The Newsroom -- but even if you left the theater intellectually stimulated, I’d have to ask: honestly, who gives a shit?

Author rating: 3.5/10

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