by Toby Woollaston
“The humiliation and depression had given way to blinding anger at my powerlessness over the unfair whims of men.”—it is a line that succinctly expresses one of Molly’s Game’s many concerns with male power and while the film is not explicitly feminist, its sentiments feel very apt in Hollywood’s current #metoo climate.
This remarkable true story of entrepreneur Molly Bloom follows her rise from the ashes of a former emotionally abusive workplace into the shady world of men as she spends a decade running the world’s most exclusive high-stakes poker game. It was a hush hush man-cave for rich celebrities, and Molly, a self-confessed “anti-wife”, used her drive and wits to develop a successful business model, all the while plugging holes in its legality.
Biopics often take liberties with the truth for dramatic ends, but thankfully Aaron Sorkin’s adaptation has kept surprisingly faithful to Bloom’s memoir. The film employs a flashback structure often returning to her upbringing, and makes it clear that her drive was born from her relationship with her father (played by a very stern Kevin Costner). But when the inevitable cracks begin to appear in her burgeoning business, she feels compelled to put her moral conscience under the microscope and finds that all is not well with the industry she has encouraged.
The ever-reliable Jessica Chastain (A Most Violent Year) is no stranger to portraying head-strong women. An affirmed feminist, Chastain appears to have embraced this role of empowerment. Molly seems to take great delight in standing her ground on questionable legal advice, with her lawyer (played by Idris Elba) frustrated by the moral code she sticks to.
It’s no surprise that Molly’s Game leans heavily on its screenplay. Wordsmith Aaron Sorkin has, in his directorial debut, wisely let his strength do most of the heavy lifting. And with the exception of a few early flourishes, Molly’s Game is a visually conservative, yet sumptuously scripted affair. Its sharp and snappy dialogue is paced just fast enough to have you reaching, but just slow enough to give you a sense of catharsis.
Read the full review for the NZ Herald here.