It is safe to say that Aaron Sorkin is one of the best screenwriters working today, a status he has deservedly earned thanks to excellent writing credits including the award-winning scripts for The West Wing, Steve Jobs and The Social Network. While Molly’s Game continues Sorkin’s current trend of writing scripts concerning the lives of real people, the film also marks his first time directing.
Telling its story by segwaying back and forth between the reality of Molly’s life before and after her arrest in usual, non-linear Sorkin style, all the elements one has come to expect from a Sorkin piece are present in Molly’s Game. The snappy exchanges and tightly-scripted dialogue are as plentiful and as enjoyable as ever, which will likely make Molly’s Game a treat for fans of the writer’s previous works.
Jessica Chastain once again proves that she is the thespian gift that keeps on giving, showing just how well she can deliver Sorkin’s trademark quick-witted dialogue with a panache that will likely thrill fans of another 2017 Chastain offering, namely the Sorkin-esque Miss Sloane. Thanks to the combination of Sorkin’s writing and Chastain’s talent, her turn as Molly Bloom therefore makes for a compelling portrayal of an intriguing woman with an unusual life story.
Idris Elba keeps up with Chastain for the most part, which is a welcome reminder of the presence he can at times muster, something that is painfully needed after Elba severely failed to impress in recent atrocities such as The Mountain Between Us and The Dark Tower. While Chastain’s magnetism is evident throughout the film, Elba’s presence is more restrained, save for a particularly outstanding monologue in the latter half of the film. As such, the two leads manage to spar well with one another, ensuring a dynamic contrast of characters, which elevates the dramatic potency without compromising the necessary balance.
Where the film may fall short for some is in terms of its heavy emphasis on the world of poker. While fans of poker will likely enjoy the film’s suave, yet thorough and competent insights into the game, the various players and their dynamics, it may be too niche for those who have little to no knowledge of poker. Thus, the uninitiated may struggle to maintain their interest through significant portions of the film, even though the poker elements are introduced and portrayed in that rapid-fire style so typical of Sorkin.
In addition to the potential issue of the film’s true target audience being too narrow a demographic, the issue of pacing is unfortunately also prevalent. With its 2 hours and 20 minutes, not only is the film substantially longer than usual Sorkin fare, it is also slightly too long from a more general cinematic point of view. Being a little harsher in the editing room could have left the film flowing better, as the intrigue of the story and writing does dip dangerously low at points, however, thanks to the talent and skill on display, the drawback of the runtime is not too severe.
While not a particularly monumental effort from Aaron Sorkin in terms of his well-known writing and his debut as a director, Molly’s Game does succeed overall. As a film about a strong-willed, intelligent and assertive woman, Sorkin once again excels at writing a great character, which Chastain brings to life like only she can. With its pacing issues and overly specific subject matter, Molly’s Game may not be a cinematic royal flush that will win everyone over, but for fans of poker and Sorkin, the combined elements will likely add up to a game-winning full house.
Verdict: 8 out of 10.