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9 February, 2018 00:00 00 AM / LAST MODIFIED: 9 February, 2018 02:25:05 AM

Molly’s Game

By Wendy Ide
Molly’s Game

We all know Aaron Sorkin can write. The one-man zeitgeist behind The Social Network, The Newsroom and more, blends skill, smartness and, particularly, showiness in a way that leaves no question about his talent. But can he direct? Having now watched his directorial debut twice, I am still not entirely sure that he can. Most certainly he can put together a slickly entertaining story: Molly’s Game, based on the autobiography of disgraced “poker princess” Molly Bloom, rattles along nicely. He can offer us a privileged vantage point from which to gaze into the closed world of the high-stakes poker games that Bloom runs. He can most certainly tell a story. But this is a story that is told primarily with words rather than pictures. This is film-making that is almost slavishly in service of the screenplay. It’s essentially a display cabinet for Sorkin’s dialogue. There is barely a shot or a cut that isn’t dictated by Molly’s silky narration. Cinema is, or should be, a visual medium. At times, it almost feels as though you could watch the film with your eyes closed and not miss out on much of its meaning.

But if Sorkin is perhaps a little too in thrall to his own writing, that doesn’t change the fact that the writing is first rate. At his best he seems like the natural heir to the crackling screwball sensibility that powered 1940s classics such as His Girl Friday and The Lady Eve. Not so much in terms of comedy – although the film bristles with wit, it is rarely laugh-out-loud funny. But the screwball influence is present in the breakneck pacing of the line delivery, the intellectual cut and parry, and the brilliant female protagonist who runs rings around most of the men in the film. Molly is a fiercely ambitious woman who has carved her place, with biting charm and sharp fingernails, in a man’s world, where she has found a way to profit from the weaknesses of others. In the central role, Jessica Chastain is, quite simply, phenomenal.

If the screenwriting takes the starring role in this film, that’s only because so much of it is delivered by Chastain. She can take a line which is so written that you can subliminally hear Sorkin’s fingers tapping on his keyboard, and deploy it with such confidence and authority that we don’t even think to question its credibility.

Molly Bloom is pretty much an archetypal Chastain role. She’s a human smart bomb who uses her intelligence as a weapon. High achieving doesn’t even come near the stellar ambitions that she harbours. Formerly a freestyle skier who hoped to compete at the Olympics, Bloom is driven to succeed. Her introduction to the world of high-stakes private poker games comes through her employer, a boorish bully of a Hollywood film producer who criticises her “ugly dress, ugly shoes”. She quickly realises that to make it in this world of spoilt super-rich boys and their ruinously expensive games, she needs to brand herself as the ultimate unattainable luxury item. With a face which is all hard angles, like the facets of a diamond, and hair with the shine of a jaguar’s pelt, Molly looks like money.

Sorkin’s main skill as a director is that he is able to negotiate the complex structure of the narrative and keep all the juggled story elements aloft. We see Molly’s life through flashbacks, both to her childhood (Kevin Costner makes a forceful impression as her overbearing father) and to her days running the most exclusive poker games in town, first in Los Angeles and later in New York. Meanwhile, exposition is deftly delivered through Molly’s meetings with her attorney Charlie Jaffey (Idris Elba), who is representing her in the court case which is the result of an FBI investigation.

And these are the moments in which the film fully ignites. Elba is as good as I have ever seen him. Jaffey has a peppery impatience, which makes him a perfect foil for Molly’s quicksilver intellect. Their sparking, firecracker scenes together are so deliciously bracing, you rather wish there were more of them. The thrill of watching two actors at the absolute top of their game is Sorkin’s winning card. n

Source: theguardian.com

 

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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