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‘Molly’s Game’ is about strategy

| Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Cristina Interiano | The Observer

Strong women are at the forefront of many award-winning and award-worthy films this year. Mildred Hayes vehemently sought justice for her daughter in “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.” Christine “Lady Bird” McPherson tirelessly asserted her teenaged individuality in you guessed it “Lady Bird.” Tonya Harding relentlessly declared her truth, albeit controversial, in “I, Tonya.” No less than her fellow leading ladies, Molly Bloom consistently strived to succeed in “Molly’s Game.”

“Molly’s Game,” much like these aforementioned movies, is about a complex woman. Considering that for every film that features well-rounded female roles like this, seemingly 10 more are churned out where women are painstakingly one-dimensional, this depth is especially refreshing. Jessica Chastain expertly plays Molly Bloom, a character that is based off of the real-life competitive skier who ultimately ran the world’s most exclusive poker game for 10 years. “Molly’s Game” is the true story of her path from being a skier destined for the Olympics to being arrested for alleged collusion with the Russian mob. If it weren’t a true story, I would have found all the drama unrealistic.

Luckily, Chastain brings some welcome lightheartedness to her character, which provides needed comic relief to the movie. Molly is seriously witty, always equipped with a clever comeback, a smart plan and, aesthetically speaking, a great outfit. Screenwriter and director Aaron Sorkin only falters by making Molly sound too scripted at some points, specifically during her early interactions with her eventual lawyer, Charlie Jaffey (Idris Elba). However, Sorkin’s characterization of Molly is more than satisfactory  she’s intelligent and competitive without being cold and emotionless, a balance that is often absent in the pursuit of strong female characters by male screenwriters. From the start of the film, Chastain’s acting hints to the numerous layers that Molly is later revealed to have. She’s undeniably nuanced, and it’s a delight to keep discovering more about her throughout the entirety of “Molly’s Game.”

Sorkin’s script delivers in all two hours and 20 minutes of “Molly’s Game,” rich with compelling dialogue and thoughtful insights. At its roots, the film is about psychology. It answers the question of just how someone ends up running a high stakes poker game with the world’s elite. This is accomplished through Sorkin’s thoughtful storytelling. He frames the narrative in a manner that ensures the audience never gets bored. The film shifts between Molly’s early life, her time running the poker game and the period two years later when she has been arrested and is planning for trial with Jaffey. The focus on Molly’s childhood effectively establishes her competitive nature as well as her rocky relationship with her father, while the other two parts bring the excitement to drive the story forward.

If Chastain’s acclaimed performance and Sorkin’s tight script aren’t enough for you, see “Molly’s Game” for Michael Cera’s appearance as a poker-savvy movie star, or for the adorable relationship between Jaffey and his daughter. Little things such as these just add to the film’s excellence. The ending of “Molly’s Game” is satisfying, the kind of pay-off every audience hopes for in a drama with so many twists and turns. Only the final shot detracted from my movie-going experience due to an attempt at symbolism that I couldn’t quite grasp. Still, I suppose the fact that it left me wondering is indicative of a successful movie.

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