It would be interesting to hear, then, what Sorkin has to say about Jessica Chastain’s lead performance in his directorial debut, Molly’s Game – a biopic about the so-called ‘Poker Princess’, Molly Bloom, who ran games for VIPs and, later, some very shady characters.
Sorkin’s ludicrous claims that actresses invariably have easier roles is happily disproven in his own film, in which a magnetic Chastain rises to the challenge of carrying a feature with a mammoth 140-minute runtime almost singlehandedly.
But it’s also proof that Sorkin is capable of writing strong, three-dimensional parts for women. Molly Bloom may be a real person but it’s Sorkin’s words that help get across the acuity, intelligence and wit which enabled her to exploit the hyper-masculine world of competitive gambling.
The film opens with a sequence at the skiing time trials for the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Olympics. The teenage Molly is about to qualify before she hits a branch and wipes out in spectacular style. The crash drastically changes the course of her life: instead of becoming a professional athlete, she goes off to LA where she soon finds work assisting a sleazy, abusive film producer.
Among her many demeaning chores is the responsibility of managing his poker games with a whole host of celebrities (although no one is named, Michael Cera’s enjoyably odious character is well-known to be Tobey Maguire).
It’s not long before Molly is hosting her own exclusive games and has some of the world’s most powerful men (including a very funny Chris O’Dowd) eating out of the palm of her hand. But among the stars, investment bankers and art dealers are a handful of gangsters and, soon enough, Molly runs into some pretty serious trouble.
The story of Molly’s rise and fall is intercut with scenes from the film’s present in which Molly is on trial for supposedly running an illegal gambling syndicate. She is represented by attorney Charlie Jaffey, played with real warmth by Idris Elba. The pair work well together as they exchange some trademark Sorkin quips, and, thankfully, there’s absolutely no awkward romantic tension shoehorned into their relationship.
Unfortunately, the film too often lapses into saccharine territory. There are several long grandstanding speeches and scenes of emotional signposting — the one in which Molly is reunited with her once-distant father (Kevin Costner) is a prime example — that bloat an already overlong story.
But, that aside, is this going to be one of the most entertaining, well-made dramas that you’re likely to see this year? You can bet on it.
|What||Molly's Game film review|
|Where||Various Locations | MAP|
01 Jan 18 – 01 Jan 19, TIMES VARY
|Price||£ determined by cinema|
|Website||Click here for more information|