Say the name Aaron Sorkin, and you’ll probably think “Screen Writer” and an Oscar-winning one at that. You may think of his fast-talking dialogue in his dramas like A Few Good Men, The West Wing, The Newsroom and The Social Network where his characters walk through their scenes using the revolutionary walk-and-talk camera techniques that he helped to develop. Rapid-fire dialogue across courtrooms, boardrooms, Congress or TV studios. Strong characters who can’t handle the truth. Complex political drama in the corridors of The White House. A multi-millionaire computer geek staring at his Facebook page and clicking refresh, refresh, refresh counting the first hundred likes on his newly developed site. This is the stuff that you’ll know of by Aaron Sorkin, even if you don’t know his name.
In “Molly’s Game”, Sorkin makes his directorial debut and has made a fast-talking masterpiece that may stand the test of time to become the quintessential ‘Poker’ movie. The movie’s lead characters star Oscar-nominated beauty Jessica Chastain of Mad Men fame as Molly Bloom and British hunk Idris Elba as her idealistic lawyer, Charles Jaffey.
The Real-Life Story of “Molly’s Game’
For a poker movie, “Molly’s Game” is unusual: its main protagonist never plays a single game of poker, not even a game of video poker or an online slot. Instead, Molly Bloom (Jessica Chastain) is a facilitator. Life was supposed to point her in the direction of becoming an Olympic-level freestyle skier coached by her driven and hard-nosed therapist father as played by Kevin Costner. However, after a freak accident (unfolding in the very first scene of the movie) and a few detours in life, Molly takes up running high-stakes poker games for the rich and famous. These are the kind of games where the buy-in is $250,000 and everyone at the table is used to being the most powerful guy in the room. You know, the type of poker games where only the egos in the room are bigger than the buy-ins, raises and calls.
At the height of her powers, Molly Bloom’s Poker Club included A-List celebrities like Leonardo DiCaprio, Ben Affleck, Alex Rodriguez and Tobey Maguire, then at the height of his Spiderman career. However, the high rolling Poker Club moved to New York and went on to allegedly become a money laundering vehicle of the Russian mob. Eventually, this placed Bloom on the FBI’s radar and ultimately led to her indictment.
In real-life, Bloom wrote a memoir about her Poker Club, which Aaron Sorkin has adapted for the movie. Her legal troubles with the Federal Government, provide the main framework for the film. After her apartment is raided by the FBI, she wound up in the office of a squeaky-clean and idealistic lawyer, Charles Jaffey, seeing his assistance.
Sorkin’s “Molly’s Game”
The movie unfolds as a series of flashbacks from Charles and Molly’s conversations about her case. Molly explains her rise after her ski accident in a voiceover, from cocktail waitress to “poker princess,” running 6 games a week, making untold millions, and staying awake 24/7 and still charming her clients whilst under a potent concoction of pills and booze. Even though Sorkin’s Molly never plays a hand, she’s just like her players. She’s become addicted to both the extreme and high-stakes lifestyle and to rubbing shoulders with the rich-and-famous people who enjoying taking those risks.
Charles discovers something important whilst getting to the bottom of her case. Whilst Molly made her fortune facilitating the vices of people who could afford it, she also ran a perfectly clean operation, technically legal until its final few months. Despite having dirt of many of Hollywood most powerful players, Molly has a stubborn insistence on protecting her clients’ names and reputations, much to Charles’ chagrin and making the job of defending her increasingly difficult.
Chastain and Elba should be rewarded with Oscar nominations for their delivery of Aaron’s Sorkin’s watertight script. Chastain, in particular, scythes through the role and delivers Sorkin’s diamond-encrusted script with a performance that only the best actors can make convincing; her Molly is clearly the smartest person in the room in her every scene.
Why “Molly’s Game” is SO good
Aaron Sorkin has made what is arguably the first truly great Poker movie. He does it by doing what he usually does in most of his body of work. From Steve Jobs to Mark Zuckerberg or to The West Wing’s President Josiah Bartlett (as played by screen legend Marin Sheen), Sorkin’s proven method is to stick a bunch of uber-genius characters in one room, start their engines, and let them fly at each other with snappy, witty and very intelligent dialogue, for our viewing pleasures. The script here is the real star and probably a shoe-in at The Oscars in 2018 for Best Adapted Screenplay. That dialogue, as expected, is machine-gun fast and the verbal sparring between Elba’s Charles Jaffey and Chastain’s Bloom is hilarious and deliciously entertaining.
The direction, naturally, is seamless. Sorkin has basically been directing his entire screen writing career. However, it Sorkin’s writing and Poker itself that steals the show here. Poker lends itself to Sorkin’s kind of tale, as it is not a game of chance. Poker is a game of finely tuned skill, and pushes and demands the player to reach the top of their potential and intelligence as a human being. Poker requires its players to be able to lie consistently and well, do complicated probability calculations, and keep charming their enemies for hours on end. All of that is on display in “Molly’s Game” and its works like an elegantly, smooth running machine.
Post-Script and Release date in Canada
The movie premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in September 2017. However, Molly Bloom could not freely enter Canada due to her convicted felon status. Aaron Sorkin applied to get her an exemption and Molly Bloom was awarded a 48-hours pass from Canadian authorities.
“Molly’s Game” premieres in cinemas nationwide in Canada from November 22 2017.