The film “Molly’s Game” is based on a true story. It centers on the life of Molly Bloom, who is convincingly portrayed by two-time Oscar nominee, and Golden Globe winner, Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty). Molly is a former Olympic caliber skier, coached by her father Larry, played by two time Oscar winner Kevin Costner (Dances with Wolves). The viewer will learn, via flashback, that over the years, Molly and Larry have had a contentious relationship. During a competition, Molly suffers a career ending accident. Once Molly is forced to give up her dreams of Olympic glory, she initially plans on attending law school, but instead moves to Los Angeles.
When Molly arrives in California, she moves into her friend’s house, where she will sleep on the couch, and attempt to figure out her next move. Needing money, Molly’s next move turns out to become employed as an overworked, underpaid, assistant to a quasi-Hollywood producer, Dean Keith (Jeremy Strong). Dean runs a high stakes poker game at an establishment called the Cobra Lounge; a game that caters to celebrities and wealthy business men. While working the games, Molly listens and learns the intricacies of poker. When she hears poker terminology she doesn’t understand, she doesn’t wait to look it up later, but does so immediately on her laptop, as she sits and watches the game from the front of the room.
Molly ostensibly only attends the games to collect the $10,000 buy in money from the players, so they can enter the game, and keep track of the wins and losses for her boss, as money changes hands. From the outset, Molly receives money from the players, and begins to make more money in tips, than she does working for Dean. Dean, hasn’t treated Molly well from the start of her employment with him. He eventually becomes frustrated by what he feels is her poor attitude, and fires her. Instead of reverting back to her original plan of attending law school, Molly sets up her own game, at a luxury hotel suite, taking the players from Dean’s game, and recruiting new players.
Molly never cheats by taking money from the pot, and is doing her utmost to run as legal a game as possible. When she learns that Player X, portrayed by BAFTA nominee, Michael Cera (Juno), is up to something underhanded, she wants it to stop. Player X, not one to listen to what others tell him, in essence, ruins Molly’s Game in Los Angeles. Afterward, she moves to New York, and with the help of some former Playboy playmates, working for her as recruiters, she sets up a very profitable game, and is riding high. As time passes, however, she becomes more reliant on drugs in order to function. Furthermore, the success of her poker game attracts the attention of not only criminals who want in on her profits, and aren’t pleased to take no for an answer, but also the government, who thinks she is a willing participant in mob activity.
Throughout the film, the story seamlessly moves back and forth in time, but always returns to Molly’s interactions with her lawyer, Charlie Jaffey, played by the always exceedingly competent, Golden Globe winner, Idris Elba (Luther). Charlie is initially at a loss as to how he is going to mount a defense against the charges the government has brought against Molly, accusations that pertain to her being in collusion with the Russian mafia. Adding insult to injury, the government has frozen all of Molly’s assets, and she has no way to pay her legal bills. Molly did have an opportunity to become financially solvent by naming names in her book, which would have garnered her an advance of over one-million dollars, but she opted not to do so. Instead, she was paid the sum of $35,000 for her story; money, that by the time she seeks legal help from Charlie, has already been spent.
In addition to writing the screenplay for “Molly’s Game,” the film marks the directorial debut for Oscar winner, Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network). Sorkin based the film on the book “Molly’s Game: From Hollywood’s Elite to Wall Street’s Billionaire Boys Club, My High-Stakes Adventure in the World of Underground Poker,” published on June 24, 2014 by It Books. Parts biography, crime, and drama, the film premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 8, 2017. I love the way Sorkin writes dialogue, but the film’s runtime of 140 minutes was too long for the subject matter it dealt with, and to a certain degree, hampered my enjoyment of the overall film. I am not someone who has ever liked playing Texas hold ’em, or for that matter, any other card game for money. For those of you, like myself, who have never been enamored with playing cards, other than for fun, that shouldn’t detract from your enjoyment of the film. “Molly’s Game” in general, is not so much about poker, but as stated at the start of this post, about the rise, fall, and road to redemption of the film’s main protagonist.