Wednesday, 12 September 2018

Molly's Game

I like Aaron Sorkin’s work. I don’t think I ever gave movies he had scripted (The Social Network, Steve Jobs) a high score, but his movies always left an impression. Long after I’d forget all about movies I have rated higher, I would still find myself occasionally pondering the meaning of, say, key events in Steve Jobs’ life. Molly’s Game is a Sorkin movie through and through: this time, he’s actually in the director’s seat.
Our movie is allegedly based on real life events, as per the book of the similar name written by the real life Molly. Molly (Jessica Chastain) was (is?) a tough character, shaped by a demanding father (Kevin Costner) and a couple of life experiences that would have left most folks in tatters, both physically and mentally.
Not our Molly, though; when opportunity presented itself to make money+status by organising high stakes poker games, she goes for it. There’s a catch there, though: there are illegalities involved, given anti gambling legislation; however, Molly takes care not to take part in the game itself or claim a stake, and thus manages to ride the wave.
Only that, eventually, she falls. We start our movie with her meeting her new attorney (Idris Alba) for the first time to discuss the Everest size of a case against her; the bulk of the movie that follows is a series of flashbacks to the events that led up to that point in time.
Molly’s Game is thus the tale of a person with strong character, strong ethics, and a solid sense of right vs. wrong who finds herself benefiting from a situation that highly challenges her morality. I found myself identifying with Molly’s character much more than I usually do with your typical film protagonists; it all eschewed of famous computer science deliberations on morality that have been brought forward to public attention through discussions on artificial intelligence and driverless cars (e.g., the famous trolley problem).
There is more to my sense of identification than computer science thought experimentation. Molly’s Game, more than the vast majority of movies I had seen, is very performance driven. Each famous actor gets their time under the limelight to show off their skills during key scenes: Kevin Costner, Idris Elba, and Jessica Chastain. Chastain's case, however, goes way further: in this fast paced drama that is constantly filled by Chastain’s own quick narration, she sails through the whole movie as if it was a one long tour de force. I will put it this way, it is impossible for me to recall a movie more dominated by the performance of a single actor than Molly’s Game. Chastain, in my view, is purified excellence throughout Molly’s Game (and, I will add, further proof to the fact the world needs more movies led by female characters).
Molly’s Game did leave me wondering a bit. Specifically, for a movie this detailed, I did question bits of the story that seem to have been left out. For example, despite our intimate journey into Molly’s life, her sex life isn’t mentioned at all; I would expect that did exist, to one extent or another, and was likely to have included folks familiar to Molly Bloom through her poker activities. Which would imply these aspects of Molly’s life would have likely tainted the moral superiority stance her character takes throughout the movie, which would have compromised the movie, hence these bits getting left out. As a firm believer in the qualities of objective truth, I am troubled by this; as an appreciator of fine art, I applaud Molly’s Game for [almost] pulling that one off.
Through the questions it raises on ethics and morality, coupled with Chastain’s strong performance, Molly’s Game has certainly established itself in my mind as one of the strongest films I have seen in a while.
4.5 out of 5 crabs.

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