Jessica Chastain shines in an otherwise drawn-out biopic
Aaron Sorkin has written many great films such as The Social Network and Steve Jobs. In his directorial debut, he tells a story we tend not to see on the big screen: a flawed independent woman running her own business. However, Sorkin’s obsession with dialogue and writing leads Molly’s Game caught in its own game.
Based on the book of the same name, Molly’s Game tells the story of Molly Bloom (Jessica Chastain) and her rise to poker fame. When her empire takes a downfall, and she gets arrested, Molly will need to recount her story to her attorney (Idris Elba) as he tries to help her get out of this mess.
Molly Bloom is an incredibly intelligent woman. She started out as a professional skier before a tragic accident aligned her to poker. The essence of Bloom is captured in Chastain. She perfectly embodies Bloom’s delicate balance of soft and hard. Her blunt yet gentle tendencies have driven her to succeed, but they have also made many mistakes. What makes her such a compelling character is the fact that she’s a flawed person.
It’s important to note that 2017 was a year where women have been depicted in unusual roles. From Wonder Woman to I, Tonya, these women aren’t the typical women we have been used to seeing in movies. Molly’s Game follows suit. Chastain isn’t tied to men nor is her story for or about men. Bloom’s story is that of business and power, stories not usually tied to women. Yet, this is a real story and a real woman, and it may just be a new type of stories for women.
Alongside Chastain is Idris Elba who provides a great battleground for funny and exciting banter between them. Both actors have a lot of chemistry that makes their scenes together some of the best moments of Molly’s Game. Elba and Chastain both deliver what are dialogue-heavy characters and both of them give great performances.
As much as Chastain or Elba shine through in Molly’s Game, Sorkin’s presence is very much felt for better and for the worst. His obsession with dialogue leaves the film feeling a lot like an audiobook instead of a movie. Chastain narrates for more than half of the film’s 2 hours and 20 minutes runtime. It’s quite heavy and unnecessary given that if I would’ve wanted to listen to the book, I could have bought the audiobook instead. It misses the golden rule of cinema, show don’t tell, and the runtime is felt because of it.
Too much dialogue is one thing, but when it’s this ostentatious, it does significantly dampen the film. Sorkin’s style of dialogue is quite showy but never has it been this bad. Everything that leaves Chastain and Elba’s mouth doesn’t feel real. In fact, the dialogue feels manufactured and produced rather than being authentic and natural. It’s movie talk at its finest and not very good at that.
Troubled by its dialogue-heavy scenes and over-abundance of narration, Molly’s Game is Sorkin at his worst. However, with the help of Chastain and Elba as well as its source material, this crime-drama is watchable but ultimately set back by its ornate dialogue. Sorkin has written much better movies and has shown more capable than this. In his directorial debut, he has delivered quite a disappointment.
Molly’s Game came out December 25.