Aaron Sorkin (Moneyball, The Social Network) dons both the writing and directing caps for this sleek and stylish look at the life of Molly Bloom, a woman responsible for one of the most exclusive poker games in the world.
Told through flashback, and coupled with a voice-over, we are taken on a journey, unravelling the intricacies of the affluent society many knew existed but hadn’t witnessed.
Sorkin decided to tell Molly Bloom’s story from two perspectives. The first story focusing on how she got herself into running a high-end poker game, and the second looking on how she finally escaped it, essentially, before and after the release of her book.
However, the film builds up the character of Molly superbly, laying everything on the table, from her Olympic aspiring childhood, to her living the high life (both physically and metaphorically) in LA and New York.
We as an audience, are seemingly given an access all areas pass to the world of Molly Bloom, leaving no stone unturned, and no story unchecked, and this is incredibly important to the character of Molly.
She herself is an open book, one open to scrutiny and judgement, however her loyalty to her clients is never questioned, she holds their secrets close to her chest, her name is all she has left, and she is not willing to tarnish it knowing she had destroyed the lives of others. This is where Sorkin catches the character perfectly.
From the very start, Sorkin combines his quick, witty and stylish dialogue with an even quicker, wittier and more stylish camera. Cutting quickly between shots, and keeping up with the pace of the words.
Yet, unlike Sorkin’s classic dialogue he does let up, allowing the camera to breathe, and allow the moments that need to mean something, do just that. Impressively, although his first time directing, it didn’t show. The film flows naturally, and even though it has a lot of dialogue in it (as is a USP of Sorkin), it does not feel laboured or slow.
This is translated to the performances excellently. Jessica Chastain (Miss Sloane, The Martian), as the titular Molly, is superb in her role as a fierce, strong, but fragile woman. Her scenes with Kevin Costner (Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice, Mr. Brooks), who plays her dad, are heartfelt and tragic.
Yet, compared to the scenes in and around the poker table, she is clearly held together, and dominating in her presence. Likewise, Idris Elba (Thor Ragnarok, The Dark Tower) is a calm, clever and inspiring man, not just for the character of Molly, but for the audience, trying to pick the pieces of what is a wormhole of a story.
It is their character developments that really bring this film together however, highlighting the very fine line between good and bad, trying to understand what makes different people, especially Molly, tick.
As a first foray into directing, this is every bit what would be expected from such an expert in the cinematic field. Of course, there isn’t a particular voice, like with his writing, but when a script directs itself, much like all of his other endeavours, that is to be expected.
The performances are incredibly strong, from each member of the cast. But, it is the life of Molly Bloom that makes this film unique. Without her incredibly colourful, interesting stories to tell, and being a person so affable, none of this would have been sellable, let alone fascinating.
This review originally appeared on Brennan’s own blog.