Aaron Sorkin must have a personal bet with himself to see how many words he can fit into the first five minutes of a movie. Like his earlier screenplay The Social Network, the opening scene of Molly’s Game hits the ground running at a breakneck pace. By the time the opening scene is over, you already feel out of breath and running to catch up with the movie before it leaves you in the dust. Where Sorkin has always shined and continues to shine is the script. Molly’s Game is a Sorkin screenplay through and through, from the non-stop opening sequence straight through to the end.
Jessica Chastain plays Molly Bloom, a young ambitious woman who manages to find herself in the world of high stakes poker. It’s not quite underground poker. The games she’s running are strictly legal (at least at first), but they’re clearly something hush-hush about them. These are poker games where all the players are powerful, powerful people. Whether they are celebrities, or successful businessmen, or just really, really rich, it doesn’t matter, they’re the kind of people who get to the table by being in the know, and get to stay at the table by having a large amount of money to gamble with.
The narrative of Molly’s Game jumps back and forth in the timeline, with one part of the story detailing Molly’s rise and fall and rise again in the world of high stakes poker while the other part details Molly dealing with federal charges brought against her. This second part is where Idris Elba comes in. Elba plays Charlie Jaffey the lawyer who takes Molly’s case to argue against the charges brought against her. While the plot of the movie mostly moves through scenes in the flashback parts of the movie, the real heart of the movie comes out in the many scenes between these two characters.
Aaron Sorkin is a screenwriter who has perfected the art of two really smart people arguing with each other. Both Molly and Charlie would be able to argue circles around anyone else but find a verbal sparring partner equal in each other. Whenever these two characters argue, the screenplay is able to argue both sides in a way that neither character seems in the wrong. Sorkin is still a dialogue fan at heart and it shows in these scenes, but thats an asset to the movie, not a hindrance. It’s easy to get swept up in these scenes and the emotion they add to the movie is the part that sticks with you the most.
Despite two major stars headlining the project (and a slew of other big stars in smaller roles including Kevin Costner, Michael Cera, Brian d’Arcy James as well as others) the biggest name associated with the project is the first time director, Aaron Sorkin. Sorkin, who made a name for himself in television with shows like Sports Night and The West Wing, but he’s had a number of successes in the film industry as well. Sorkin might be one of the most recognizable names in screenwriting, having worked on such projects as Moneyball, Steve Jobs, A Few Good Men (which was based on Sorkin’s own play), and The Social Network, which earned Sorkin an Academy Award. Still, this was his first time as the person behind the camera. It’s hard to say exactly what Sorkin’s directing style is. It’s clear he’s drawn some inspiration (and possibly personal advice) from other people who have directed his screenplays in the past, but Sorkin’s always had a natural flair for how a story should flow on the screen, so it’s no surprise that he’s able to move seamlessly into the role of director. Though Molly’s Game is his first feature as a director, it’s a strong enough movie that his sophomore effort will be eagerly welcomed.
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