Here's what the critics have to say about 'Molly's Game'

Here's what the critics have to say about 'Molly's Game'

The Oscar-winning writer of "The Social Network", "Moneyball" and other fast-talking, crackling scripts has been celebrated for his mile-a-minute wordplay.

Molly's Game, the based on a true story tale of a former competitive skier who later caught the FBI's eye for running an underground poker game, is a fantastic directorial debut for acclaimed Jewish screenwriter Aaron Sorkin. There's obviously no better time for this change in focus. Her only ally was her criminal defense lawyer, Charlie Jaffey, (Idris Elba) who learned there was much more to Molly than the tabloids led people to believe.

So far, so good.

Jessica Chastain as Molly Bloom surveys a high-stakes poker game in Mollys Game. She faced prison time but was ultimately cleared of many charges and got off with probation, a fine and community service.

In our world, derailed by a freak accident and occasionally hampered by a rebellious spirit, she applied her preternatural intelligence to become - of all things - the "Poker Princess" known in upper-echelon circles for running weekly, invitation-only games for some of the wealthiest high-rollers in Los Angeles and NY. Watchful, dispassionate and preternaturally immune to the flirtations of the wealthy men in her orbit, Molly learned the ropes, struck out on her own and, inevitably, flew too close to the sun, eventually running afoul of the Russian mob and the US government.

The movie opens with Bloom's disastrous Olympic skiing incident, wherein she wipes out spectacularly on the slopes.

However, her portrayal of real-life Molly Bloom in "Molly's Game" should put those doubts to rest.

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Idris Elba swats his American accent to and fro in interesting fashion but is otherwise fantastic as Charlie Jaffey, a high-end attorney who takes Molly's case even though her assets have been seized, she's broke and she's facing nearly certain jail time.

While I have no doubt these things occurred, I can't help but think that we're not getting the whole story where her operation is concerned. She takes a couple of part-time jobs to make ends meet, one as an assistant to real estate agent Dean Keith (Jeremy Strong).

Much of the fun of Molly's Game is being a fly on the wall during these games as large amounts of money - more than most of us will make in several years - are won and lost in quick succession. She slowly breaks all her rules, the Mob gets involved, and blah blah blah. Yet the identity of Player X is Tobey Maguire, as is revealed in her book, Molly's Game.

It's a world lived in luxury clubs and hotel suites, where the players can be movie stars (Michael Cera, wonderful as a creepy young actor, unnamed) and the buy-in can be tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars. Chastain plays it close to the endowments forever threatening to spill out of costume designer Susan Lyall's cleavage-enhancing outfits.

Most of the exchanges between Jaffey and Molly take place in his office, often late at night, as he pokes, prods and probes, trying to comprehend her behavior, her motivations, and - most particularly - her unyielding refusal to identify the "fish" whom she nurtured and (surprise!) in many cases genuinely cared for.

It's a dizzying ride, and a wordy one; if Sorkin were being paid by the word, he'd have the best deal in Hollywood.

And really, Molly's Game's plot is the star attraction anyway. Poker terms, too, fly fast, and it's not easy to keep up if you don't know the game. The film goes back and forth between relating her past and showing her fighting for her future. The editing in this film is incredible, starting from the tour de force opening sequence and into the ongoing juxtaposition of Bloom's seeking legal representation and flashbacks of how she built her poker empire.

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