Molly's Game – movie review

by James Robins / 09 February, 2018
RelatedArticlesModule - Molly's Game movie review

A tale set in the murky world of high-stakes poker shows even the great Aaron Sorkin can sometimes fail to fire.

He may be much mocked for his distinctive rat-a-tat dialogue, but there is little doubt that screenwriter Aaron Sorkin can pen a confrontation.

The very best of his scenes are like jousts, a galloping run-up to an almighty and conclusive clash: Tom Cruise vs Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men; Jesse Eisenberg vs Rooney Mara in The Social Network; Or approximately all of the 87 episodes of The West Wing that he scripted.

The impulse for torrents of words does not let up in Molly’s Game, Sorkin’s directorial debut about the heady rise and demeaning downfall of Molly Bloom, a real-life poker-game runner who inadvertently fell in with New York’s Russian mob.

We get the obligatory narration introducing Molly (Jessica Chastain) as a potential Olympic skier and the tumble that dashed her chances – a snappy sequence that owes much to the opening of Adam McKay’s The Big Short.

But the narration doesn’t stop. As Molly moves to LA and learns how to get a dozen deep-pocketed show-offs around a card table (including Michael Cera playing deliciously against type), then trades Hollywood for Wall Street, that punchy narration just barrels on. And on.

If there is a basic rule of cinema, it is this: show rather than tell, observe rather than describe, or allude to those emotions or actions that mere language can never attempt to convey. In Molly’s Game, Sorkin both shows and tells. What is described by a disembodied voice is then repeated on-screen by the actors. An example: Chastain details Molly’s descent into drug addiction, accompanied by a quick montage of her necking pills. Which means that half the movie is entirely redundant. Close your eyes and you only miss out on the array of Molly’s deep-necked dresses. It feels very hectoring. It might have been a better podcast than a movie.

When Molly and her lawyer, played by Idris Elba, wind themselves up for the trademark Sorkin joust, the exchange is merely shouting, with none of the quick-wittedness we might expect. Nor is there anything to be gained from Chastain’s impassioned performance in a movie that is pitched as a portrayal of a woman fighting for her dignity against cash-grabbing authorities. Molly tried to beat powerful men at their own game. Perhaps the winning trick was to refuse to play their game altogether.

Video: eOne ANZ



This article was first published in the February 10, 2018 issue of the New Zealand Listener.

MostReadArticlesCollectionWidget - Most Read - Used in articles
AdvertModule - Advert - M-Rec / Halfpage


How to lose weight without a diet
87141 2018-02-25 00:00:00Z Nutrition

How to lose weight without a diet

by Jennifer Bowden

"The irony is the intentional pursuit of weight loss – dieting, in other words – is actually a predictor of future weight gain."

Read more
Baby boomers are rethinking retirement for a later-life reboot
87313 2018-02-24 00:00:00Z Social issues

Baby boomers are rethinking retirement for a later…

by Sally Blundell

The biggest cohort of baby boomers is reaching retirement age – and many are not planning a quiet dotage.

Read more
School shootings and Russian indictments
87455 2018-02-24 00:00:00Z World

School shootings and Russian indictments

by Joanne Black

Slaughter in a school and Russian social-media mischief: the US is under siege.

Read more
Beck to go back to basics at Auckland City Limits
87417 2018-02-24 00:00:00Z Profiles

Beck to go back to basics at Auckland City Limits

by James Belfield

Before headlining Auckland City Limits, Beck talks about celebrating his musical past on stage and on record.

Read more
Islands of the Gulf: How the Hauraki has changed
87427 2018-02-24 00:00:00Z Television

Islands of the Gulf: How the Hauraki has changed

by Fiona Rae

A broadcaster revisits her mother’s iconic Islands of the Gulf TV series to see what’s changed since the 60s.

Read more
Hokianga's Wild West fest's unusual way of fundraising
86388 2018-02-24 00:00:00Z Life in NZ

Hokianga's Wild West fest's unusual way of fundrai…

by Peter De Graaf

Once a year, the Wild West saddles up and rides into Waimamaku for a day of highway robbery.

Read more
Back on track: $60m to go into regional rail
87519 2018-02-23 14:43:30Z Economy

Back on track: $60m to go into regional rail

by Jane Patterson

Five regions will receive just over $60 million for rebooting rail in the first chunk of money from the Provincial Growth Fund.

Read more
Ricky Houghton is about finding innovative solutions to the issues facing Māori
87510 2018-02-23 14:21:31Z Profiles

Ricky Houghton is about finding innovative solutio…

by Clare de Lore

No government on their own can fix the problems facing Māori in the Far North, warns Local Hero of the Year Ricky Houghton.

Read more