By Bradley Griffith
The first great movie of 2018 (it was only released in select cities in 2017) has arrived in theaters across the nation. Based on a true story, “Molly’s Game,” starring Jessica Chastain in the lead role, has laid down the gauntlet for all other movies released this year.
When we first meet Molly Bloom (Chastain) she is being arrested by the FBI in her home in Los Angeles for running an illegal poker game. Her home is invaded by federal agents and she must appear in court only a couple of days later in New York. The deck is now stacked against her.
Molly flies to New York and tries to find an attorney before her court date. After cycling through several other attorneys, she finds herself in the office of Charlie Jaffey (Idris Elba). Molly tells Charlie that she wants a defense attorney who is a former prosecutor and who is above reproach. Molly tells him her story.
Molly was an Olympic-hopeful skier when she was younger. Under the strict tutelage of her father, Larry Bloom (Kevin Costner), Molly was improving. Until rapid onset scoliosis required a surgery, after which the doctors said she would never ski again. But she did. She became the third-ranked skier in her sport in the United States, before another injury ended her career.
Molly wanted to go to law school, but wanted to take a year off first. She moved to Los Angeles and became the personal assistant of a Hollywood mover and shaker who quickly got her involved in running his weekly poker game with actors, producers, rock stars, etc. Molly was a quick study on how to run a poker game and on the art of poker itself. She made 10 times more money from tips from the poker players once a week than she made all week working her day job.
Molly eventually moved on to run her own game. As time went by the stakes got bigger and bigger until Molly found herself in too deep with no way to get out other than through Charlie Jaffey.
The above plot summary doesn’t do the movie justice. The finished product of “Molly’s Game” with all the different facets of the production firing on all cylinders is nearly impossible to describe. The writing, acting, directing, and everything else about the movie was phenomenal. It’s not often that you get a movie that hits on all cylinders at once, but “Molly’s Game” does.
You won’t see a better acted movie than “Molly’s Game.” Jessica Chastain is nothing short of magnetic in her portrayal of Molly Bloom. Through Chastain’s performance you can see beyond what appears to be only a money grab for Molly. Chastain shows you Molly’s heart and soul. Idris Elba is no slouch himself. The more times I see Elba act, the more I like him. Some of the best scenes of the movie are confrontations between Elba and Chastain. They have good chemistry as Charlie pushes Molly for the truth and searches for what makes Molly tick.
The writing by Aaron Sorkin is great. The story is told by switching back and forth between flashbacks to Molly’s childhood and her meteoric rise in running poker games in Los Angeles and New York as narrated by Jessica Chastain and her present troubles with a federal indictment in New York. Occasionally when a movie is told utilizing flashbacks the story can get confusing. You can’t tell what’s past and what’s present. That’s not the case here. The storytelling aspect of “Molly’s Game” is captivating. It draws you in little by little. You don’t even realize you were hooked until it’s over.
One thing that I didn’t expect was humor. In the middle of many intense scenes a few laughs are thrown in, not at inopportune times, but exactly when such a moment is needed. It helps balance the scales and adds more humanity to the characters.
“Molly’s Game” is receiving a lot of accolades, and it deserves them all. “Molly’s Game” is riveting entertainment. It’s still early in the year, but I can’t see a better movie being released this year.
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Rated R for language, drug content, and some violence.