Thursday, January 4, 2018

Movie Review: Molly's Game

Well, I'm back home after another successful Vegas trip.  And by "successful" I mean I made it back alive.  I did get some new material for the blog, and I still have stuff from the previous trip to relate, so I should be able to keep the blog going for awhile.

Before leaving Vegas, I had a chance to see the new poker movie that just came out, Molly's Game.  I figured, what better locale than Vegas to see a movie that focuses on high stakes poker?  Even better, I actually saw the movie in a Vegas casino that has a rather large poker room—The South Point. 

I'm sure most of you are at least minimally familiar with the story.  Molly Bloom, a former Olympic skier, finds herself working for a guy who runs a weekly poker game for the rich and famous.  She gets to be so good at working the game that she takes it over and starts making huge money for running the game.  She started out in L.A. and eventually left to start an even bigger game in New York.  Of course, along the way she ran afoul of the feds and thus we have our story.  The film is not fiction, there really is a Molly Bloom and everything depicted in the film really happened (more-or-less).

It's not really accurate to call Molly's Game a "poker movie."  Although it revolves around the poker games Molly ran, there's not a lot of poker strategy or insight in it.  In other words, if you're expecting another Rounders, you'll be disappointed.  That said, there is some poker in it to be sure.  Molly starts off knowing nothing about poker, and she really learns the game. She imparts the poker wisdom she's absorbed on the audience.  In the middle of the movie, there are definitely a few really good poker scenes—even some hand histories—that will appeal to the poker player in you.

But that's not the main thrust of the film.  The major focus is Molly herself, how this totally fascinating woman got caught up in all this, and despite her considerable intelligence and talent, let herself get in over her head. 

In that regard, the absolute best thing in the movie is the relationship between Molly and her reluctant lawyer.  Jessica Chastain plays Molly and Idris Elba plays her attorney.  Not only do they both give Oscar-worthy performances, but the dynamic and chemistry between them is incredible.  You could watch these two people sit and talk for hours on end, they are that good.

One of the reasons the dialog is so good is that it is written by Aaron Sorkin, who also directed (first time directing). Sorkin created The West Wing for TV and wrote the screenplays for A Few Good Men and The Social Network among others.  He is famous for his rapid fire, intelligent, witty dialog and he doesn't disappoint here.

The secondary relationship depicted is between Molly and her hard-driving father, played by Kevin Costner. Chastain and Costner also have great chemistry and there is a scene of the two of them near the end of the film that is ridiculously good and extremely moving. 

As you can tell, I really liked the movie.  In fact, it would be fair to say I loved it.  That said, the movie is not perfect.  The movie is narrated by Chastain, and I generally would prefer less narration in a film.  Show us, don't tell us!  Also, the story is not told in a linear fashion—it jumps around in time.  Although this was presumably done to make the story easier to follow, I think it actually makes things a little more confusing than necessary.  An important plot point hinges on a minor character's deposition.  They keep referring to it but it isn't until 3/4's of the way into the movie that they come to it in the story and basically explain what they've been talking about all this time.  I think that could have been handled better.

Still, I highly recommend Molly's Game.  And I think I would have liked it every bit as much if I had never played a single hand of poker in my life.

One somewhat tangential note.  Fans of the pics I usually display on this blog may be interested to know that the lovely Ms. Chastain displays ample cleavage amply throughout the film.  Early on her boss tells her to display the "Cinemax version" of herself and she does just that, wearing one low-cut top after another.  It was almost distracting.  Notice I said "almost."

There's no truth to the rumor that I was the fashion advisor to this film.

If you see Molly's Game, let me know what you think!

EDITED TO ADD:  For some great background on the movie and an interview with the poker consultant to the film, be sure to check out Robbie's blog post here.





16 comments:

  1. I read the book - it was excellent. I plan to see the film soon. Thanks for the great review.

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    1. Sure. Will be interested to hear the take of someone who has read the book.

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    2. Saw the film last night. I think it was one of those rare instances where you DON’T end up saying “the book was so much better”. There were actually things in the film that weren’t revealed in the book (I’ll refrain from elaborating to avoid spoilers). I did think it was curious, though, that the “Hollywood star” so central to the book (Tobey McGuire) wasn’t named in the film.

      But overall, I thought it was an excellent film. The movie theatre at Red Rock (where we saw it) was packed.

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    3. Good to hear, DWP. I've heard others say that it's better than the book, a rarity. Glad to hear it was a packed house.

      Here's the thing.....a Hollywood studio is not going to make a film where they name Toby McGuire (or whoever) in a film where he comes off as a total asshole....because in six months they could be releasing a movie starring Toby McGuire and they want to present him as a great guy that you should pay money to see.

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  2. Haven't read the book or seen the movie yet. I was wondering how the movie turned out. Glad you liked it, I might go see it this weekend.

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  3. Thanks for the review.

    Also, the story is not told in a linear fashion—it jumps around in time.

    I hate it when directors do this. I go to movies to relax and be entertained, and hate it when they make me work too hard to follow along.

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    1. Yeah.....it really isn't that bad in this case, it was easy enough to follow except for the one thing I mentioned in my review. They were referring to something we hadn't seen yet, and I wondered if I missed something or perhaps they edited out something? Once we came to it, it all made perfect sense.

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  4. Jessica's other big movie Ms Sloane (high flying lobbyist takes on the gun industry) was a flop other than the scenes with her being serviced by male prostitutes. Looking forward to seeing Molly's Game though. Thanks for the review!!!

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    1. I had heard of Ms. Sloane but never saw it. Surprised to hear that she played a character who need to pay guys to service her! Doesn't sound too realistic to me. I guess they never saw her in her Molly Bloom wardrobe!

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    2. She wasn't actually paying them for sex. She was paying them to go away afterwards.....

      Ms Sloane is worth watching and actually worth watching twice!

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    3. That's Charlie Sheen's line!

      I really liked her in Zero Dark Thirty, and she had a nice supporting role in The Martian.

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  5. Nice to hear that it was good. I think I'll see it when it comes out on demand. I was reading an article on using photos in blogs and copyright lawsuits. Do you ever worry about that stuff?

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  6. Overall I thought the movie was very good. The only part that drove me crazy was when a guy bet $2,000 and the next guy said, I'll raise you $1,000. How can you make a movie about poker & not understand simple rules of the game? Ohcowboy12go

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    1. Yeah....that was one thing everyone noticed. Including the "poker consultant" for the movie--who tried to tell Aaron Sorkin that it was wrong. But Sorkin didn't care (or whatever). Actually, that is explained in the blog post I linked to at the bottom of my review. Check it out!

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