(director/writer: Aaron Sorkin; screenwriter: based on the Molly Bloom book Molly’s Game: From Hollywood’s Elite to Wall Street’s Billionaire Boys Club, My High-Stakes Adventure in the World of Underground Poker; cinematographer: Charlotte Bruus Christensen; editors: Alan Baumgarten, Josh Schaeffer, Elliot Graham; music: Daniel Pemberton; cast: Jessica Chastain (Molly Bloom, Idris Elba (Charlie Jaffe), Kevin Costner (Larry Bloom), Michael Cera (Player X), Jeremy Strong (Dean Keith), Chris O’Dowd (Douglas Downey), Bill Camp (Harlan Eustice), Brian D’Arcy James (Brad), Joe Keary (Trust Fund Cole), Jon Bass (Shelly Habib), J.C. MacKenzie (Harrison Wellstone), Grahame Greene (Judge Foxman), Samantha Isler (Teen Molly), Michael Kostroff(Louis Butterman); Runtime: 140; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Mark Gordon, Amy Pascal, Matt Jackson; STX Films; 2017)
“A slickly told and mildly entertaining fluff story with more tiresome voiceovers than any other film I ever saw.“
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Screenwriter Aaron Sorkin, in his directorial debut, is also the writer of this true story about Molly Bloom (Jessica Chastain) who ran an exclusive international high-stakes poker game and was busted by the FBI in a sting and forced to decide whether she’ll squeal or be included in a mob indictment. Known as the “poker princess,” this overlong and rambling story about her life is not worth a wager. It’s based on Molly’s book Molly’s Game: From Hollywood’s Elite to Wall Street’s Billionaire Boys Club, My High-Stakes Adventure in the World of Underground Poker.
It’s a slickly told and mildly entertaining fluff story with more tiresome voiceovers than any other film I ever saw. As a teenager Molly Bloom was an Olympic hopeful for the American ski team but an accident forced her to go in a different career direction. Molly relocated from Colorado to Los Angeles, where she soon was employment as the personal assistant to a sleazy Hollywood hustler (Jeremy Strong) who runs underground poker games on the side. When it became impossible for her to continue in L.A., she went on her own to run the same kind of underground poker games in New York and retired as an author of a book on her poker experiences. She was for the last two years no longer in the poker game business when arrested. She thereby meets with her high-priced lawyer Charlie Jaffey (Idris Elba), who tries to get her to sell out her “clients” so she can cut a deal with the prosecution. The film veers back and forth between her current dilemma and flashbacks of the life she led as the woman-empowered poker hostess. Her relationship with her hard-driving professor father (Kevin Costner) is used to show where she got her grit to succeed in the fast-moving celebrity gambling world.
Since I find Sorkin’s writing style almost unbearable, the film couldn’t end soon enough for me. I found the project never caught my interest, except for the quality performance by Ms. Chastain. She inhabited her character’s selfishness and fleshed out her scheming persona in a gritty way. But the fine performance still lacked an ability to convey deep real emotions and couldn’t overcome the indulgences of Sorkin’s irksome script. The pic never got me into the feminist games it was playing. I will consider it a win to pass on this biopic.
REVIEWED ON 11/28/2017 GRADE: C+ https://dennisschwartzreviews.com/