Aaron Sorkin is Hollywood’s go-to guy when it comes to sharp-tongued drama at the crossroads of politics, economics and contemporary culture. Most people will know Sorkin for “The West Wing”, the original TV series focusing on the highest levels of American government before “House of Cards” or “Designated Survivor” came along, but I myself admire him the most for “The Social Network”, the Millennial generation’s “Wall Street”. Now he has directed his first film.
Let’s look at it.
In “Molly’s Game”, viewers once again are taken into the corridors of power; this time, however, only to the very edges, where they barely get a glimpse. They share this position with protagonist Molly Bloom. A high achiever and fresh college graduate who drops out of sports after an unlucky accident at the Olympics, she finds herself adrift at the beginning of the film. Spiting her father by postponing law school, she moves to LA and crashes with a friend. Since her funds are limited to her 1700 bucks of babysitting cash, she starts working at a high-end bar, and it is here that her wild journey begins.
At the center of the film, which, in typical Sorkinesque manner, elegantly employs the device of frame narration, are the poker games of movie stars, business tycoons and various kinds of celebrities, over which Molly, through the agency of a minor Hollywood guy, soon presides. (Michael Cera plays one of these celebs, but confuses “Social Network” connoisseurs by eerily resembling both in looks and manner Jesse Eisenberg’s Mark Zuckerberg.) Things progress and Molly’s ambition soon has her organizing bigger, better and more exclusive games at grander locations. From here on out, things predictably start to spin out of control, which is fun to see not least due to Sorkins’s dialogues, which will not be praised here as doing so has become cliché.
This is a film made for excellent actors, who, I’m happy to announce, all shine. Indeed, a special shout-out to Idris Elba, who returns from his meandering quest for the Tower as a very respectable and righteous defense attorney. And while I won’t pretend to be an expert in cinematography, editing, and the like, I will say that the film had a smooth, toned-down look and atmosphere not unlike “Network”, though not quite reaching David Fincher’s expertise.
The emotional heart of the film rests in a scene very late in the movie. In this conversation between two alienated people, a question is raised that the viewer, entranced by big-buck gambling, playmates in suites, and Monet paintings traveling through the streets of Manhattan as collateral, might have missed. The scene is not very surprising, but strong and impactful nevertheless due simply to deeply committed acting. And it gives the movie a different spin than you would have expected.
The only flaw of the movie that I see is connected to the fact that it asks us, kind of, to sympathize with some rich, entitled assholes who use the “family Monet” as a pawn for their unfettered debauchery. On the other hand, we get James Joyce references.
Bottom Line: Has everything that I love about non-blockbuster, non-artsy-fartsy movies. Will definitely watch another Sorkin.