Molly's Game Movie Review
If there’s one thing I know, it’s that Jessica Chastain is a good actress. Not just a good actress, but one of the best actresses working today. Every role she gets she kills, and in Molly’s Game, paired with Aaron Sorkin dialogue, she is lethal.
Too bad the movie can’t quite live up to her.
Then again, few can.
Chastain plays real-life skier-turned-poker-madame-turned-convicted-felon Molly Bloom, a smart, determined and competitive woman who winds up hosting poker games for the rich and famous. But as one tends to do, at least in the movies, when dealing in high-stakes gambling, she crosses the line, gets busted by the feds - which is arguably worse than when her face gets busted in by the mob.
It’s a story that is so compelling it just has to be true, and it is, though names have been changed to protect the not-so-innocent. For instance, Michael Cera, in what is easily one of the best performances of his career, plays an unnamed celebrity who turns out to be a sociopathic asshole… who may or may not be Tobey Maguire in real life.
Molly’s Game is a lot of fun to watch, even if it doesn’t quite have the goods to be worthy of a late December, awards-qualifying release. Chastain certainly chews up scenes and spits them out, and Idris Elba is terrific, even if he only gets one or two scenes to really shine.
Sorkin delivers plenty of great Sorkin dialogue as you’d expect from a film both written and directed by him, even if he goes overboard from time to time. Molly’s Game works splendidly for quite a while, but at two hours and 20 minutes it’s arguably 30 minutes too long - and unfortunately it’s those last 30 minutes where the movie suddenly, inexplicably fizzles.
It doesn’t crash and burn so much as it loses its zest for life. Sorkin clearly had a lot of fun writing and directing Bloom’s rise and depicting the crazy poker scenes… and a lot less fun writing and directing Bloom’s attempts to escape time in a federal prison. The movie simply loses steam and stumbles across the finish line, capped by a pretty silly court scene and another one where Kevin Costner, as her demanding father, shows up out of nowhere while Bloom is at a skating rink (seriously, I thought it was a hallucination) and proceeds to psychoanalyze her and solve all of her problems in the span of three minutes. Why? Why at all?
Despite its weak third act, Molly’s Game is a generally solid film that is a blast to watch - at least for a while. Chastain is terrific, Elba is great in a supporting role, and Kevin Costner… well, I’m still not sure why Kevin Costner is in this movie. But he’s in it, it’s fine, watch it, but maybe wait until video.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.