Molly’s Game

Sunday Independent (Ireland) - Living - - CINEMA - HI­LARY A WHITE

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

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