MOVIE REVIEW: Molly’s Game is a high-stakes win for audiences, director

Poker princess Molly Bloom (Jessica Chastain) and her lawyer, Charlie Jaffey (Idris Elba), await Bloom’s court fate in a scene from Molly’s Game. Photo courtesy, Pascal Pictures

What do you get when you mix multi-million dollar poker games, A-List actors and the FBI?

The jam-packed, fast-paced, 200-word-per-minute spectacle that is Molly’s Game.

The film tells the story of Molly Bloom, a failed Olympic skier turned lowly L.A. assistant and her rise to Poker Princess and proprietor of a multi-million dollar poker empire. Through it all she deals with A-list actors, Wall Street types and anyone with enough money to compete.

But the quarter-million-dollar poker games and luxury hotel penthouses can last only so long, and the second half chronicles Molly’s untimely downfall into the hands of the FBI.

The film is the directorial debut of celebrated TV and movie writer Aaron Sorkin, and it’s an impressive first effort. Packed with rapid dialogue (a Sorkin trademark) that sounds more like music than words, the film never slows.

Sorkin balances the salacious poker party scenes and inevitable legal scenes with care, never letting the latter drag down the fun.

Jessica Chastain plays Molly and is pitch perfect. Molly is incredibly tough having been raised by a perfectionist father (Kevin Costner) but is equally vulnerable when she reaches the pinnacle of success, and Chastain handles the swing with nuance and grace. The performance makes Chastain a serious awards contender.

Idris Elba, as Molly’s lawyer, does his best to keep up with the dialogue pace while putting on a faux American accent. He is successful 90% of the time.

Micheal Cera plays Player X, who is all the A-List stars rumoured to have played the games rolled into one. He is patronizing, belittling and ruthless. He is also, if you’ve read the book, based almost entirely on actor Tobey Maguire.

Molly’s Game is nearly perfect. Like almost everything Sorkin has written it’s about 20 minutes too long, but that’s a small complaint.

The film is a smart insider look at a world of privilege and exorbitant wealth and the downfalls that come with it.