Watched On: Redbox (DVD)
Starring: Jessica Chastain, Idris Elba, Kevin Costner, Michael Cera, Jeremy Strong, Chris O'Dowd, Bill Camp
Rotten Tomatoes: 82%
I own every season of The West Wing, have seen every episode of Sports Night and Studio 60 On The Sunset Strip and The Newsroom and I went ahead and brought the Aaron Sorkin masterclass on screenwriting and I pretty much make it a point to eventually getting around to watching pretty much everything the man writes and/or creates, so when I heard that Molly's Game was going to be written and directed by him (his directorial debut, no less) I put it on the list of movies that I would eventually, maybe, hopefully get around to watching. Turns out I didn't have to wait too long and, even better: this was a really, really good movie.
Molly Bloom (Jessica Chastain) is a world class mogul skier, who opens the movie about to qualify for the 2002 Winter Olympics, but ends up severely injured instead, effectively ending her career. She originally had planned (at the advice/guidance/pressure from her overbearing father (Kevin Costner) to attend law school, but she takes a year off and moves to Los Angeles. She becomes a bottle-service waitress at a club and meets Dean (Jeremy Strong), who is an ostentatious and unsuccessful real estate developer. She becomes his officer manager and eventually helps him run his underground poker games which attract movie stars, investment bankers and sports players- she ends up earning large sums of money on tips alone.
When Molly gets too independent for Dean's liking, he fires her and she sets up a game of her own. One of Dean's A-List players, Player X (Michael Cera) leaves with and soon Molly is making even more money- but when a skilled, conservative and very successful player by the name of Harlan Eustace (Bill Camp) joins the game and ends up losing to one of the worst players in the room and he becomes compulsive, suffering heavy losses. Molly finds out that Player X has been funding Harlan to keep him in the game and she berates him for his unethical actions and in turn, Player X changes the venue and the other players leave Molly's game to join him.
Molly moves to New York and after some efforts, starts up another game. She finds success again, but runs into a problem when she begins to have trouble covering her losses when payers can't play. She gets convinced to start taking a percentage of the larger pots, which does cover her losses but makes her game an illegal gambling operation. When one of her Los Angeles players is inducted for running a Ponzi scheme, Molly is investigated and questions about who was at her games. This sort of starts a downward spiral for her and she becomes increasingly addicted to drugs and unsavory and dangerous elements from the Mafia start becoming involved in her games, other members of the Mafia offer their services to extort money from her non-paying players. When Molly refuses, they attack her in her home, hold her at gunpoint and threaten her mother. But before anything further can come of this, the FBI rains the game, her assets are seized and she returns home to live with her mother.
Two years later, Molly has moved out and published a book where she names a few individuals who played in her games. She's arrested by the FBI for involvement with illegal gambling and the Mafia and enlists the help of Charlie Jaffey (Idris Elba) a high profile lawyer in New York, who agrees to help her after he realizes that she's been protecting innocent people who were affected by her poke games.While she's waiting for her trial in New York, her father seeks her out and attempts to reconcile with her, admitting that he was overbearing and treated her differently because she knew about his affairs. Charlie negotiates a deal for her, but Molly declines, wanting to protect the identity of her players. She pleads guilty, but the judge decides that she had committed no serious crimes and gives her probation, community service and a $200,000 fine instead.
Overall: Here's the deal... usually, Sorkin leaves his fingerprints on what he writes. If you watch enough of his stuff, you'll see the same lines and the same cadence to his dialogue. There's whole supercuts of it floating around the internet, which is what makes this movie so fascinating to me. It's got the cadence and the rhythm of his writing, but it's also just about fingerprint free. I think I bumped on maybe two moments in the entire movie. Sorkin's always been a great writer, but I feel like this movie might be his masterpiece. I loved it. My Grade: **** out of ****