Cert: 15A, Opens tomorrow.
The Christmas tendency to trowel on the schmaltz can make it an endurance test by the time New Year approaches. Grown-ups in need of something sophisticated, snappy and sexy are in luck, however — to the rescue comes scriptwriting supremo Aaron Sorkin and ginger screen goddess Jessica Chastain.
Sorkin makes his directorial debut with this biopic of Molly Bloom, the one-time competitive skier who ended up at the wrong end of a federal investigation after getting heavily embroiled in the world of high-stakes underground poker.
Her story is meaty, the way Sorkin likes it; a woman forced to channel her natural drive into something illicit; a pushy psychologist dad (played here by Kevin Costner); celebrity poker sharks; Russian mafiosos and the FBI.
At breakneck pace, Molly (Chastain) narrates an opening flashback of her downhill accident and immediately the character is established. She moves from Colorado to LA , gets work as a PA for a lousy estate agent (Jeremy Strong), and ends up helping him with bigbucks poker nights he stages for his high-flyer pals. The tips are huge. Molly smells opportunity.
Punctuating all this are scenes in the present where she and her defence lawyer (Idris Elba) are getting the measure of one another.
Rat-a-tat-tat dialogue, no crummy love interest, a slick dress sense and a satisfying general air of moxie make Molly’s Game a superb night out with a refreshing female protagonist. Chastain has already nabbed an awards nomination for her turn and more will follow. She and Elba (who badly needed a role like this) preside over a tight ensemble cast that includes Chris O’dowd and Michael Cera.
Jessica Chastain and Idris Elba play their hands in Molly’s Game