Having been a Hollywood staple for what seems like an eternity, it’s almost inconceivable that Aaron Sorkin has taken so many years to move into direction. With his Oscar-winning prose, defined by its intellectual gravitas and at times overbearing snark, often the standout ingredient of past projects, it seemed like a only a matter of time before he’d find himself in the director’s chair.
His debut tells the unbelievable story of ex-ski champion turned illegal poker game runner Molly Bloom, who finds herself the subject of an FBI raid. The film traces the rise of a woman making waves in a male-dominated scene, her secret celebrity players, and what happens when you fly too close to the sun, all with lashings of Sorkinese.
As owner of one of Hollywood’s finest resumés, headliner Chastain is one of the most talented actors on the planet but here, working with a reasonably cold and pragmatic script, her performance lacks the usual depth. In lesser hands Molly’s Game could have potentially unravelled from the pull of all its twists, so it’s to Chastain’s credit that the work remains grounded.
Most of the time the camera is locked on our titular character, so the supporting cast’s time on screen feels limited. Despite top billing for Elba and Costner both appearances ultimately feel inconsequential and from the rest of the line-up only Cera and Camp make an impression.
With a little more warmth and time dedicated to character development, Molly’s Game, born from such fascinating subject matter, could’ve been something special. As it is we’re left with a slightly above-average drama. Sorkin falls into familiar tropes and if he’s to make the director’s chair his own, he’ll have to up the stakes next time.
CAST: Jessica Chastain, Idris Elba, Kevin Costner, Michael Cera, Bill Camp
DIRECTOR: Aaron Sorkin
WRITERS: Aaron Sorkin (screenplay), Molly Bloom (book)
SYNOPSIS: The true story of Molly Bloom, an Olympic-class skier who ran the world’s most exclusive high-stakes poker game and became an FBI target.