Aaron Sorkin has without a doubt been one of, if not the best screenwriter in the last 25 years. From his debut with A few Good Men to his hit show The West Wing to his Oscar-winning script for The Social Network. His dialogue driven work has lent life to stories that otherwise may not have seemed as exciting for example once again The Social Network and Moneyball. Those are two stories that while interesting don’t necessarily lend themselves to a compelling movie.
For his latest effort Sorkin not only goes behind the words but he goes behind the camera for his directorial debut. There is no doubt Sorkin has taken notes and learned a lot from some of the top-notch directors that have brought his words to life such as David Fincher, Rob Reiner, Bennet Miller and Mike Nichols. Those are some pretty good auteurs to learn the craft from and Sorkin didn’t miss anything they showed. Molly’s Game is much more of a cinema-friendly story than some of the others but Sorkin has made it beyond compelling. After the success of the underground poker film Rounders, which levitated the poker world and game to the heights it knows today, Hollywood has tried and failed to capture that world again. Enter Molly Bloom and Aaron Sorkin.
Molly Bloom was Olympic level mogul skier who after injury found herself thrust into the money hungry world of Los Angeles where her career ambitions took a left turn when she took an assistant job to a high-end realtor who also happened to play in a high stakes poker game with some of Los Angeles’ elite millionaires. After diligently learning their world and making friends with the games regular players which included an A-list Hollywood actor who, although not named in the movie has since been identified in her book as Toby McGuire as well as his longtime friend Oscar winner Leonardo DiCaprio she eventually starts her own game with these elite players. Determined to keep her game legal and make enough money to get her degree and the life she initially set out for herself, the greed and glam of L.A. took over as well as the vices that come with it. Battling substance abuse which snuck up on her as well as the idea that she was slightly untouched she loses the L.A. game. This leads Molly to take her knowledge and skills to New York City where the clientele is less than savory and soon includes members of the Russian mafia. Molly finds herself on trial for multiple offenses that include fraud as well as money laundering all of which add up to a possible 20 plus years in prison. Her new unlikely high priced attorney Charles Jaffey are soon building a defense as Molly reveals all aspects of her business for Jaffey.
The film is driven and I mean driven by the two stellar performances of two time Oscar nominee Jessica Chastain and Golden Globe winner Idris Elba. When working with an Aaron Sorkin script you need actors that can deliver not only a massive amount of dialogue but can deliver it razor sharp. Think of Philip Seymour Hoffman in Charlie Wilson’s War, Kate Winslet in Steve Jobs and recent first time Oscar nominee Allison Janney in The West Wing, maybe the greatest master of his words. Without actors of this skill and caliber, these films fall flat. Elba and Chastain master his words just as well as anyone. The quick pace he demands is maybe as difficult as any stunt Tom Cruise does in any Mission Impossible film. Chastain delivers to a point where I can’t picture a Sorkin film NOT including her in some aspect.
To discuss Sorkin’s directing abilities he shows he can hang with most directors working in Hollywood. While he didn’t bring much new to the table as Fincher did with The Social Network, for instance, he paces the film and moves the story along in a way that leads to zero dullness and keeps the viewer captivated from beginning to end. He clearly knows how to work with great actors as well as get the best out of them. In light of today’s Oscar nomination announcement, it comes as no surprise that he is once again nominated for his unparalleled writing ability. The surprise is that Chastain is left out as a best actress nominee, something that hasn’t happened to an actor speaking working words in a film since 1995’s The American President and has only happened twice out of his eight feature film scripts. To say it’s a snub is an understatement, but such is the way of the Academy. In no way is Molly’s Game a film to be missed or should I say experienced.