CINEMA AND OPINION
HAVING conjured verbal symphonies from politics (The West Wing), sports (Moneyball) and the internet (The Social Media), Aaron Sorkin turns his attention to poker, and the true tale of a woman making her way, and a fair bit of money, in the world of gambling.
You can see why poker should be attractive to Sorkin: the high stakes, the drama, the oodles of specialist terms. It offers an ocean of images and ideas into which Sorkin can dive. While such total immersion has worked so well in the past, Molly’s Game is different – for good and otherwise. Here, for the first time, Sorkin is director as well as writer, in charge of killing his own darlings. The question: does he do so? The answer: not nearly as much as he should.
When first we meet Molly (Jessica Chastain) she is not the glamorous manager of the hottest poker game in town. She is a ski jumper, hoping to represent her country in the Olympics. Coached by her perfectionist father (Kevin Costner) she is also a driven daddy’s girl. Already, we can see Sorkin laying a trail of breadcrumbs to the kind of woman Molly would become: smart, fearless, a risk taker, but a people pleaser too, especially when it came to men.
Her sporting career cut short by injury, Bloom is destined to go to law school. First, however, she goes to LA to earn some money and “be young for a while in warm weather”.
A waitressing job leads to PA work for a minor Hollywood player who happens to run a card game.
Bloom knows nothing about poker, Googling every term she overhears, but she learns fast and she can see the potential to earn money. Not from taking a percentage of the pot, which would be illegal, but from the tips the players hand over. Bloom’s game was famous for bringing Hollywood and Wall Street together, trust fund kids and self-made men, all of whom tipped very well, knowing that it was Molly who granted or denied the coveted seats around the table.
How Bloom went from a young woman heading for law school, to jaded card game host, to being the subject of an FBI raid in the middle of the night is covered by Sorkin in great narrative swoops. Back and forth he goes, from Bloom’s LA glory days to the point