Molly’s Game (15)
When Molly Bloom (Jessica Chastain) has a freak accident in the snow at an Olympic skiing event, she tries to build an alternative career as a cocktail waitress, a real estate agent and, finally, running high stakes poker games for VIPs. Aaron Sorkin trades heavily on Martin Scorsese’s scattergun style of directing Goodfellas in a series of lengthy voiceovers.
Chastain carries the narrative tone of them into her live scenes as if she’s forgotten she’s now actress rather than a commentator. This prevents us becoming as involved in the film as we should be.
It shows off too much. The more it does that, the more annoying it becomes. Why should we care about the sad sacks who lose their vast fortunes as Bloom networks behind their backs?
Sorkin tries to make us laugh at her machinations and then ‘feel’ for her when our darling of the glitterati falls foul of the taxman, the Russian Mafia and the FBI. The mix doesn’t work.
By the time we get to the marshmallow finale, where psychologist dad (played by Kevin Costner, the king of marshmallow) tells her that her problems go back to that freak fall in the snow and that he really loves his precocious little girl (even if she isn’t into Freud) it’s time to say: “Aaron, you blew it.” Sorkin isn’t being Martin Scorsese now. He’s being Steven Spielberg.
The lack of originality in Molly’s Game doesn’t end with the lead character’s (Joycean) name. It’s far too reminiscent of Miss Sloane, that other Chastain vehicle where she also got in above her head, becoming a mover and a shaker in the political field before losing herself in a blizzard of pill-popping and candle-burning. Here too she bites off more than she can chew before eating humble pie in an anti-climactic finale.
This one also takes place in a courtroom. The ‘surprise’ verdict is hardly surprising. Molly morphs into the kind of character that makes the film cuddly. Maybe the studio told Sorkin it wouldn’t ‘fly’ without this cop-out. If that’s the case I say: shame on you.
Chastain is one of the few women in a male-dominated industry who can “open” a movie but she needs to push her ruthlessness home, not renege on it in sanitised last reels.
Another problem is Idris Elba, her lawyer. Elba is an ordinary actor. He gets his big scene towards the end but for most of the time he’s just window dressing. You know Chastain could wipe the floor with him any time she wanted to.
She could also wipe the floor with Chris O’Dowd. He persists in telling Molly he’s Irish…and then does his best to disguise his (Irish) accent. Strange. Neither does he know his Joyce. Dim but not funny.
Without Chastain the film is a busted flush. She rescues it somewhat so let’s give her a Molly Bloom style affirmation for that. Yes, she does yes, she does yes.