December 19, 2017

CINEMA | Aaron Sorkin Bets on 'Molly's Game'

"I like destroying lives."
Jessica Chastain Aaron Sorkin | Molly's Game

A-list screenwriter Aaron Sorkin makes his highly anticipated directorial debut dramatizing the unbelievable true story of amateur skier turned infamous "poker princess" Molly Bloom. Based on her memoir of the same name and the rest of her highly publicized escapades, Molly's Game stars Jessica Chastain in a firecracker of an unconventional biopic about one woman's dominance of powerful men.

Chastain is sensational and a perfect vessel for Bloom's often antithetical behaviour. Full of statuesque sex appeal, she and the other women in the film make their skill and intelligence clear at every turn in some of the most distractingly tight dresses possible. Sorkin wisely doesn't linger or fade into a male gaze. To say Bloom is a real-life character would be an understatement. Her lengthy history of academic and athletic excellence is somewhat laboriously detailed through voiceover exposition right off the bat.

Sorkin doesn't so much care about his own direction as protecting Bloom's very much filtered journey. Unlike say Mark Zuckerberg in The Social Network or Steve Jobs in Steve Jobs, Bloom is the entire movie with every other character appearing only to support her story. We follow her whole life from childhood to the present and her real-life character is largely an autobiographical first-hand account with changes to protect others and not her at all, ironically.

Sorkin directs as an act of control to protect not so much his material but Bloom's life story. It's no coincidence this is also his first script about an important real-life (and somewhat lesser known) woman instead of a man—whom the film undoubtedly asserts is a good person of high morals unwilling to compromise and benefit from the suffering of others. Sorkin unsurprisingly proves he's solidly capable of directing his own material precisely because he sticks to and doubles down on his best habits as a writer.

Jessica Chastain Aaron Sorkin | Molly's Game

A more handsome than ever Idris Elba is tasked to ground Bloom as her high-minded lawyer (a fictional, composite character) towards the end of her story chronologically. Sorkin plays with the timeline going from every part of her life back and forth with ease as a utilitarian framing device. Elbra gets to purely showcase his charm, competence, and thoughtfulness that only hints at his natural physicality.

Everyone's father Kevin Costner was another wise choice as further grounding presence playing Bloom's demanding but knowing actual father. A hilariously wry Michael Cera is so playful and aloof as the mysterious Player X (likey based on Tobey Maguire). Other men the likes of Chris O'Dowd, Brian d'Arcy James, Bill Camp, and Jeremy Strong show up to inform us of who Bloom is and how she came to be while adding to the colourful sense of dark humour and true drama throughout.

Visually, Sorkin is hardly flashy or dynamic but he's such a gifted writer and orator, his script is able to adapt to that more demure style of direction. However, the poker scenes explaining how the tables and players work are fluidly explained with slick humour and tight execution. It's an impressive if ever so flawed assembly of a biography reflecting Bloom's own inherent psychology relating her issues with men and father figures.

Sorkin's unquestionably entertaining film is a splendid exercise in his trademark tendencies, both highs and lows, as a sharp-tongued, fast-paced portrait of one remarkable woman's even more remarkable life set in the fascinating world of underground high stakes poker and celebrity intrigue. Molly's Game may not live up to the real-life Molly Bloom but that's only because so many of the names and details have been left out to focus entirely on her viewpoint.

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