This is the unfiltered version of Aaron Sorkin, now that he finally went behind the camera to direct Molly’s Game. I consider myself a fan of Aaron Sorkin’s quick and witty delivery but there’s also a point to which I felt that a lack of filter for once with Sorkin’s trademarks can become rather excessive and knowing that this is a product that speaks Sorkin through and through, now it’s easier to see where his indulgences end up getting in the way. That said, I don’t want to give away the idea that I didn’t enjoy Molly’s Game, because I don’t see myself ever resisting the sound of Sorkin’s smart-sounding dialogue coming out of Jessica Chastain’s tongue and I got what I expected.
From the trailers, you are already posed with one question. Molly Bloom introduces herself effectively as, “I’m Molly Bloom. Do you know about me?” Well, after watching Molly’s Game, you certainly will be able to remember that name as the powerful woman who managed to start up a gambling empire all on her own and unwittingly became the target of an FBI investigation. Detailing her rise and fall from glory through the form of flashback, what Aaron Sorkin presents to us in Molly’s Game is a generally engaging crime drama about playing with luck – which fits considering the fact the film is indeed about the formation of a gambling empire.
Sorkin, who is known for his rapid-fire dialogue isn’t quite the same person when he goes behind the camera; you already know the trademarks of his own scripts and he goes completely unfiltered for better or for worse. For better, his dialogue is always entertaining to listen to, but for worse the exposition also gets in the way as a distraction and it shows a more indulgent side to Aaron Sorkin’s own habits as a writer. The case being made clear is that Molly’s Game suffers from an overwritten script that seems to have more urge to tell too much on the spot at the expense of the visual story being told which isn’t really anything special unfortunately because Sorkin has yet to develop a distinctive style as a director. On paper, most of this sounds enticing but on the screen it somewhat feels suffocated.
What keeps Molly’s Game entertaining, however – is the sort of energy that Jessica Chastain presents in the role of Molly Bloom. Given as the multitude of Chastain’s performances are powerful, independent women who seek to find a place within the world for themselves, the role of Molly Bloom isn’t much different. She’s clearly dedicated to finding her own strength just from as much as a gamble just as Sorkin is to telling her own story. But alongside Chastain, Idris Elba is great as always and Michael Cera creates a surprisingly menacing presence as Player X (a mysterious gambler who is suspected to have been based around Tobey Maguire in real life). It’s pleasing to hear every actor deliver these Sorkin lines on the screen but alas the effort put into creating the characters written as they are is commendable.
Soon enough, I hope that Sorkin can at least make himself feel more visually distinctive and cut down on his usual indulgences because even at 140 minutes it still feels quite excessive which is the opposite for Sorkin. But even for how entertaining I’ve found Molly’s Game to be, I kept thinking of an often repeated phrase in regards to writing, “Show, don’t tell.” I kept it in mind because there’s a whole lot that Sorkin clearly seems he wants to tell about the gambling empire although he doesn’t seem to show it very much at the expense of his writing style. I’d certainly love to play the game Molly started for myself, as Sorkin would have shown it to be – but mainly because I don’t know if I got enough to take from it visually when Chastain’s voiceovers take over the film in its near entirety.
Watch the trailer right here.
All images via STX Entertainment.
Directed by Aaron Sorkin
Screenplay by Aaron Sorkin, from the memoir Molly’s Game: From Hollywood’s Elite to Wall Street’s Billionaire Boys Club, My High-Stakes Adventure in the World of Underground Poker by Molly Bloom
Produced by Mark Gordon, Amy Pascal, Matt Jackson
Starring Jessica Chastain, Idris Elba, Kevin Costner, Michael Cera, Jeremy Strong, Chris O’Dowd, Bill Camp
Release Year: 2017
Running Time: 140 minutes