Chastain in ace form keeps a poker face
Jessica Chastain, backed ably by Idris Elba and Chris O’Dowd, stars in enthralling film that tells the true story of Molly Bloom
02 January, 2018 — By Dan Carrier
Jessica Chastain and Idris Elba in Molly’s Game
Directed by Aaron Sorkin
FILMS and books about Texas hold ’em, the five-card poker game, are plentiful. From the thoughtful – Al Alvarez and Anthony Holden’s works are a great mixture of poker tales and autobiography – to films such as The Cincinnati Kid and Casino Royale, this card game is the coolest there is, and its rules and game-playing tactics make for great copy. There is a high-roller hiding in all of us, it seems.
But what makes Molly’s Game stand out is partly because it is a true story and partly because the lead’s character has a strong sense of right and wrong, which creates an odd juxtaposition for someone who ran a high-stakes poker game for the mega rich.
Add to this a star turn by Jessica Chastain as Molly, backed ably by Idris Elba as her lawyer Charlie Jaffey, Kevin Costner as her pushy father, and Chris O’Dowd among others as a poker player – everything is in place for an enthralling two hours.
Molly Bloom’s story comes in plaited strands: we get to discover her background. She was a former ski-ing champion and Olympic medal hopeful (along with two brothers who were also super-high achievers) until a freak accident in an Olympic trial event means she has to quit the sport.
She heads to Los Angeles to “be young in a sunny place”, as she puts it – something her athletic career has stopped her from doing until now.
Working in a bar, she meets a man who organises high-stakes poker games – and is soon his partner in cards.
This provides another plot-plait, as Molly eventually takes over the game and runs a Tuesday night card session for big Hollywood names, billionaires, tech giants and the like.
Then we have the third strand – how she had invited in to the match men she did not know were mobsters, and when the Feds swoop on the Mafioso, they get her, too.
Told in a non-chronological way, Molly is painted sympathetically. The love of money is the root of all evil, and while this film doesn’t offer such a commentary on her work where filthy lucre swims about the characters and shapes their behaviour, it does consider how she got to where she was and why in an exciting manner.