Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (April 19, 2018)
At the age of 56, Oscar-winning screenwriter Aaron Sorkin makes his directorial debut with 2017’s Molly’s Game. Based on a true story, we meet Molly Bloom (Jessica Chastain), a one-time Olympic hopeful whose skiing career goes kaput due to injury.
As she regroups, Molly moves to LA and works as a nightclub waitress. There she attracts the attention of movie producer Dean Keith (Jeremy Strong) and he hires her as his assistant.
Dean runs a high-stakes poker game for friends, and he asks Molly to organize it. After Molly does well at this task, she eventually branches out to form her own gambling ring, an endeavor that lands her in the crosshairs of the FBI.
As a director, Sorkin seems to embrace the same concepts he utilizes as a writer. Game boasts Sorkin’s signature hyper-verbose style on which he made his name, and his directorial choices follow a similar over-active path.
In terms of the script, Sorkin does fine. I don’t know if he deserved another Oscar nomination in that category, but the screenplay offers enough quality to be a good effort, as Sorkin’s stereotypical theatrical dialogue remains stimulating.
Unfortunately, Sorkin the director seems unwilling to put the brakes on Sorkin the writer, so the film indulges in too many excesses – mainly connected to running time. At more than 140 minutes, Game becomes a bit of an endurance test.
In its first act, Game works quite well. Sorkin gets out all the exposition we need and does so in an entertaining way, as the aforementioned hyper-stylized dialogue creates a lively and fun view of the movie’s universe.
After a while, though, we encounter diminishing returns. Game begins to become redundant, as it feels like we see the same scene over and over.
That may not be true literally, but a lot of the segments run together and don’t add to our understanding of the story or characters. At 105 minutes, Game would’ve been more effective, but at 141 minutes, it sags and loses impact.
Still, as much as I think I’d prefer a shorter version of the film, Game gives us enough to keep us engaged. Even during the “draggy” segments in the second half, it still maintains decent interest.
The presence of a strong cast helps, and Chastain adds nice resolve and bite to the lead. As her attorney, Idris Elba fails to deliver a consistent/convincing accent – he goes too “Noo Yawk” and calls his client “Moddy” for reasons I don’t understand – but he brings gravity to a potentially throwaway role.
All of this leads to an erratic movie but not a bad one. While Molly’s Game could use substantial editing, it still keeps us reasonably entertained much of the time.