Features | Written by Ben Bradley 18/08/2021

MOLLY’S GAME (2017): Slick, Riveting and a Royal Flush

Released in 2017, Molly’s Game was all the buzz through the year. Based on a true story, it tracked the life of disgraced poker princess Molly Bloom. She was an Olympic level skier turned enigmatic hostess who ran the world’s richest and most exclusive poker game.

She ran the game up until the FBI caught up with her in 2013. Molly brought together the world’s most famous actors, sportsmen and other rich poker enthusiasts to battle in luxury hotel suites of New York and Los Angeles.

Molly’s Game, directed by Aaron Sorkin, takes us close into the hidden high-stakes games that occur far from sight. It’s a world that most are only familiar with through online sites like 888poker.

Movie-goers will be familiar with the name Aaron Sorkin. He was the writer behind some of last decade’s most famous and wittiest movies. He wrote Moneyball, The Social Network, and The West Wing. His style of writing is known to perfectly meld together showiness and quick wittiness.

In his directorial debut, the best features of his style come together. Molly Bloom and her lawyer’s performances turn the movie into one that’s full of twists and intrigue.

The story, mostly true to Molly Bloom’s autobiography of the same name, is a slick story. Jessica Chastain plays the protagonist and is well suited to the wryly humorous tone that Aaron Sorkin intended.

Viewers may remember Jessica Chastain from her performance in Miss Sloane and Zero Dark Thirty. She has already proven that she has the charisma and smarts to play such a tricky subject.

Similarly, here with her humorous narration, she is impossible to stop watching. Viewers and fans of poker are introduced to how poker works as well as a variety of strategies.

At 2 hours and 20 minutes, the movie certainly runs for longer than usual. It was also a common complaint amongst critics.

On the plus side, the movie remains engaging for the most part. This is especially true in the beginning. Here, Molly takes us through her childhood and the incidents that shaped her and changed her future. Her stern, always demanding father is played by no other than Kevin Costner.

She gets injured due to a freak accident and is tired of being in the shadow of her overachieving siblings. Frustrated, she heads to Los Angeles to find herself instead of law school. She takes up a job as a waitress and a day job as an assistant to a shady boss.

It was here that she stumbled into the underground world of poker. Turns out her boss was hosting weekly poker games for a famous Hollywood actor at the “Cobra Lounge.” This location is a real-life spot known as the Viper Room in Sunset Strip.

Molly’s Game draws many parallels to “The Big Short.” A beautiful combo of quick shots, images and graphics are used to let viewers grasp the intricacies of poker.

We learn the ins and outs of the game at the same time as Molly. Viewers learn the psychology behind it, the strategies and the common terms and phrases. According to many poker experts, the scenes and terminology are right on the money.

After she is fired by her boss, Molly wrestles the game and makes it hers. She adds plenty of glamour and ups the stakes. It’s a dizzying character growth but Jessica Chastain excels at the portrayal.

The movie takes us through two timelines at the same time. One shows us Molly navigating her lawsuit with the help of her lawyer. The other shows us how her poker empire was built and why she was known as the Poker Princess.

The villain here is Player X, played by Michael Cera of all people. It’s a very rare villainous role for him and is allegedly based on Tobey Maguire. Player X does not play for the money. Instead, he likes to destroy and watch his competition burn.

On the other end is Bill Camp, a strong player and a nice man. Unfortunately, he ends up on a downward spiral that wrecks his life and marriage.

However, of all the relationships, it is Molly’s and her lawyer’s, played by Idris Elba, that stand out. The two have crackling chemistry right off the bat – exchanging barbs, literacy references and other rapid-fire conversations.

Molly’s Game premiered in September 2017 before it saw a theatrical release in the US in December. It was immediately showered with praise and applause. It grossed $59 million worldwide, which wasn’t too shabby considering its budget of $30 million.

There was praise for the screenplay. Idris Elba and Chastain were highlighted for their performances with the latter’s performance considered her best so far. Chastain won a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress.

The movie is almost four years old at this point but it remains a compelling and absolutely riveting watch. It’s a must especially to those who are fans of the poker game.

It can be tempting to be drawn to the real personas behind every character in the movie. But look beyond and keep your eyes on the story as this movie is sure to be a straight flush!