Back when I was in college, that’s when I remember poker becoming a “thing” – the kind of thing where they broadcast tournaments on television, and it seemed like everyone was learning or re-learning how to play. I was always a very very middling sort of player – I knew enough so that I was rarely the first person to go out in a game, but wouldn’t often be the final winner. I did come in second place in a charity tournament that my church group hosted (swear to God!) and mostly started playing poorly because I hadn’t planned on playing, and had plans to meet up with my study group immediately after the tournament time, and the time to get to the library was quickly diminishing, meaning I was distracted. Being a fan of pop/celebrity culture, I’d also heard about the notorious games involving celebrities out in Hollywood, and so knew a little bit about the standing game in this movie – Molly’s Game – but didn’t know a lot about Molly herself, or what had happened afterwards.
So the movie is this – Molly Bloom is a former competitive skier who was injured very badly, and so after college went to Los Angeles and ended up staying in what started out as a menial job. In that job she was asked by her boss to help organize and run an underground poker game that attracted celebrities, and because she ran it so well, she spun that off into its own business which she ran herself, and made a lot of money. I won’t get into what happened next because it would spoil the end of the movie (though you could just read her wikipedia article and find out there), but suffice to say, she wrote both a book and got a movie deal to tell her story, and that’s what Molly’s Game is. The movie itself was so intriguing that I have the book checked out from the library and at some point will get around to listening to it.
The movie itself is delightful. Part of what made it so enjoyable for me is that it’s an Aaron Sorkin written/directed film, and I kind of really enjoy his work. I’ve loved so many things he has done, from The West Wing, Sports Night, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip and The Newsroom. The American President which he wrote is one of my all-time favorite movies, so discovering that this was something of his I hadn’t seen made it that much more appealing to watch when the Boy suggested adding it to our list a while back when friends of his had recommended it. And the movie doesn’t disappoint in its Sorkin-ness. It is quick-witted with rapid-fire banter between characters, and even when characters mess up dramatically, you still feel for them and want them to succeed.
It’s also a surprisingly well acted movie. It’s got Jessica Chastain in the lead role, and Idris Elba as the lawyer who reluctantly takes on her case, and helps serve as a reason for her story to be recounted, and despite it not being a showboat kind of role, he is predictably strong and steady playing that part. The Boy and I both enjoyed seeing Jeremy Strong (now best known to us through Succession) in a similar sort of asshole role that he plays in that show. And there are other actors that popped up who we both went, “Oh that guy!” Unfortunately, despite being about a woman, it’s a very dude-heavy movie. Like to the point where I’m not sure I can clearly remember a female character who makes a strong impression beyond Molly, which is disappointing. But that’s really just a side note, and doesn’t have to be a reason why not to watch.
So yeah – a fun movie. If you like poker, if you enjoy celebrity gossip from the early 00s, if you enjoy Aaron Sorkin, or just like a well-written quick-paced movie, this is one for you.