Molly’s Game Review
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This time of year is the time of year to see movies about real people—about everyone from Winston Churchill to Tonya Harding. And in Molly’s Game, Aaron Sorkin makes his directorial debut with a story about a young woman who trades her Olympic hopes for high rollers.

Molly’s Game tells the true story of Molly Bloom (Jessica Chastain), the “Poker Princess” who was arrested by the FBI for running high-end poker games in New York and LA. Before she was hosting high-rollers, though, she was an Olympic skiing hopeful whose career was cut short by a dangerous fall during her qualifying run. Instead of moving on to Harvard Law School as planned, she decided to take a year to recover in California. And before long, she put her law school dreams on hold even longer while managing a weekly poker game filled with actors and directors and business moguls and making thousands of dollars a week.

From the opening lines of Molly’s Game, it’s clear that it was written by Aaron Sorkin. Molly’s narration is quick and snappy, her lines sometimes more spat than delivered—and that introduces the character as tough and no-nonsense. And, later, as Molly spars with her reluctant lawyer, Idris Elba’s Charlie Jaffey, it shows the two as equally shrewd—a pair of clever characters who are used to using their words to get what they want.

And Chastain’s Molly definitely is shrewd. In a short time, she transforms herself from injured athlete to cocktail waitress to strong, successful businesswoman. That doesn’t mean, though, that she’s cold and heartless. She’s glamorous, but she’s vulnerable, too. As a smart businesswoman, she knows her players. She knows what they can handle and what they can’t—and she looks out for them more than you might expect from someone in her position. She isn’t about hired goons and broken legs—which is what ultimately gets her in trouble.

There’s a lot to love here: an intriguing main character, some solid performances, and a whole lot of crisp dialogue. The story, however, feels rather scattered, jumping from games to childhood memories to meetings with her lawyer—and it sometimes gets a little too bogged down in the finer points of poker, too. And all of that takes away some of the film’s punch. But while it isn’t the most mesmerizing film of the year, it’s still an entertaining one.

Molly’s Game isn’t another Steve Jobs or The Social Network. It isn’t required award season viewing. But it’s a promising directorial debut for a talented writer.

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