Review Molly’s Game (2017)
Review Molly’s Game – Gutsy, quick-study Molly Bloom, formerly a nationally ranked skier with Olympic aspirations, goes to Los Angeles on a short break before entering law school and ends up running a high-stakes poker game.
Written and directed by Aaron Sorkin, and adapted from Bloom’s book Molly’s Game, the film is a mesmerizing look into a world where very few gain entry.
There are three stories in Molly’s Game; the story of the rise and fall of her poker operation; the second, what motivated her/her relationship with her father; and the third, the client/lawyer relationship. The first story is a wonderful insider’s tour of the exclusive, invitation-only poker games. As a viewer, you get beyond the velvet rope and into the VIP suites where the game takes place (I was reminded of “the executive game” in The Sopranos and scenes from Michael Clayton – but Molly’s game was an order of magnitude beyond those games).
The second story circles around Molly’s motivation for her unusual career choice. The film swipes away the obvious money and glamour (which is more than enough motive) and trots out the notion of a deep-seated desire to control powerful, rich men. Molly has Daddy issues.
The glimpses we get of the second story are compelling and intriguing – and Kevin Costner makes the most of every scene he’s in as Molly’s father Larry Bloom. He’s introduced as the demanding father, pushing his daughter (beyond the comfort zone of most) to perform. Later he’s injected into the movie to quickly tease out what motivated Molly to do what she did and understand what it was that ultimately landed her at the defendant’s table in the case of the United States of America vs. Molly Bloom. “I’m going to give you three years of therapy in three minutes,” says a stern Larry Bloom. This moment comes somewhere north of the two-hour mark and, while beautifully delivered, quickly slams the door on their interesting, estranged, and contentious relationship. I found myself wishing there was more of Chastain/Costner scenes and less of the Chastain/Elba scenes which brings us to the third story.
The third story is the client/lawyer relationship between Bloom and Charlie Jaffey, played by Idris Elba. Elba turns down his glamorous wattage of the man who could/should be Bond, the ruthless smooth and swagger of Stringer Bell, and the dark, gloominess of John Luther. He plays Jaffey as an accomplished legal mind, decent, but otherwise ordinary man.
Fans of The Wire will recognize and enjoy Michael Kostroff (Barksdale, Stansfield defense lawyer, Maurice Levy) in the role of Molly’s first attorney, Louis Butterman.
The Bloom/Jaffey scenes, which center arounds Jaffey desire to discover why Bloom won’t name names in order to secure a better plea deal. It all comes down to the value of one’s name and one’s personal integrity – Molly Bloom as a role model. While I don’t reject the notion of Molly having noble intentions, the film hits its own stick while navigating the moguls of this part of the story’s course.
Wonderful actors are brought to the poker tables in a parade of interesting characters.
Review Molly’s Game characters and cast include:
Molly Bloom – Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty, The Tree of Life, Interstellar, Crimson Peak, A Most Violent Year, Lawless, The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby, The Help, The Debt, Jolene, Dark Shadows)
Charlie Jaffey – Idris Elba (Beasts of No Nation, Pacific Rim, The Wire, The Mountain Between Us, The Dark Tower, Guerilla, Prometheus, The Office)
Larry Bloom – Kevin Costner (The Postman, Hidden Figures, Black or White, Man of Steel, Mr. Brooks, Tin Cup, JFK, Dances with Wolves, The Bodyguard)
Player X – Michael Cera (Superbad, Juno, Arrested Development, This Is the End)
Dean Keith – Jeremy Strong (The Big Short, The Judge, Black Mass, Masters of Sex, Mob City, Selma, The Good Wife)
Douglas Downey – Chris O’Dowd (Bridesmaids, Get Shorty, Moone Boy, Calvary, Girls, Family Tree)
Harrison Wellstone – J.C. MacKenzie (Vinyl, The Aviator, The Departed, The Shield, The Wolf of Wall Street)
Brad – Brian d’Arcy James (Ghost Town, Spotlight, The Big C, Manhunt: Unabomber, 1922, 13 Reasons Why)
Harlan Eustice – Bill Camp ( The Night Of, The Only Living Boy in New York, The Leftovers, Jason Bourne, Manhattan, Midnight Special, Love & Mercy, Aloha, 12 Years a Slave, Brotherhood, Public Enemies, Lincoln)
Judge Foxman – Graham Greene (The Green Mile, Wind River, Longmire, Skins)
B – Angela Gots (Madam Secretary, Sleeper Cell, Bosch, LAbyrinth)
Teen Molly – Samantha Isler
Louis Butterman – Michael Kostroff (The Blacklist, The Wire, Luke Cage, The Deuce, The Wizard of Lies, The Good Wife, Bosch, Show Me a Hero, Banshee)