Known for his rapid-fire flair for dialogue, writer Aaron Sorkin proves ideally suited to tackling the true story of Molly Bloom. Bloom, a former professional skier, earned her stripes working under one of the co-owners of the infamous Viper Room as she recruited high-profile talent to take part in secretive poker games in the club’s basement.
These stories would become tales of legend – actor Tobey Maguire was one of the most notorious figures involved – and Bloom would ultimately take the fall due to the heft of illegality on hand, but its her sense of pluck and survival that elevates Molly’s Game beyond the usual biopic rules as, through the pen of Sorkin, Bloom is an instantly likeable heroine; far more so than the likes of Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs, two other high-profile figures Sorkin has brought to life on-screen previously.
Perhaps something of a companion piece to the likes of The Social Network and Steve Jobs, Molly’s Game is as sophisticated as it is entertaining, and it really all boils down to the iridescent Jessica Chastain. Impeccably cast in the role of the titular Molly, the actress never fails to pull focus for every moment she’s on screen, and as much as the film banks on her sex appeal, it’s her quick wit and intelligence that sees the character through.
At 140 minutes long, it’s easy to argue that the film slightly overstays its welcome, though one can never accuse Molly’s Game of being boring as Chastain’s dominating performance and Sorkin’s spirited script keep it moving along, even when it threatens to derail itself; the moments involving her stubborn father (played here by Kevin Costner) proving the sequences that could use a trim.
Though the focus is wisely on Chastain, Idris Elba (as Bloom’s lawyer) plays a strong second fiddle, earning his own stand-out monologue moment to offset the plethora of Molly-centric speeches the film so gleefully presents, and the likes of Chris O’Dowd and Michael Cera (the latter portraying a fictionalised version of Tobey Maguire, dubbed here Player X) impress in biting support roles that prove wildly far removed from the usual comedy shtick we’ve become accustomed to.
Whilst it’s unfortunate that Chastain’s dedication to this role didn’t result in a (much-deserved) Oscar nomination, she has still delivered undoubtedly what will remain one of the finest performances on offer this year. A likeable film despite its inherent mean streak, Molly’s Game is a prime example of a slick, competent film being made all the more accessible through the sheer brilliance of its lead actor.
Review Score: FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Molly’s Game is in cinemas now.