‘I was in a room with movie stars, directors and business titans They were going all in, all the time.’
Jessica Chastain and Aaron Sorkin was always going to a sight to behold and listen to (the man is a genius with dialogue afterall). And, thankfully, the film itself more than lived up to expectations. With a running time of 2hr 20 mins it manages to maintain audience interest for the majority of its length. That’s in part to the dialogue – as crisp, sardonic, loaded and witty as to be expected – which makes you feel smart by listening to it. You feel ever smarter if you can keep up with it (I’ll admit I got bit lost during some of the poker technical talk).
The voiceover, which can be a blessing or a curse in cinema, is perfectly pitched. In this film’s case it superbly aids to the tone, narrative and development of Molly’s character. The storytelling itself really works, weaving in multiple time periods to skillfully develop the characterisation of Molly Bloom (Chastain). It pacily hops between her childhood and complicated relationship with her father (Kevin Costner), the incident that destroyed her skiing career and led her to running a high-status poker game in Los Angeles along with the repercussions striking her hard and heavy.
But what full engages is Chastain’s performance which is truly masterfully and hugely deserving of award nods. Her Molly is so well constructed, so layered and complex. She delivers Sorkin’s snappy dialogue with such ease of delivery. Every movement she makes and every gesture she takes effortlessly serves to extenuate what’s being said along with Molly’s character arc overall. And what a character Molly is – the kind of complicated figure with a stranger-than-fiction life that couldn’t be made up. When Molly’s story was first revealed in the press she was given the moniker of ‘Poker Princess’, a title that both demeaned Molly but also undermined what exactly she had achieved. A fiercely smart and determined woman who single-handedly ran a poker game that had millions of dollars shifting hands on an hourly basis. Chastain plays her so superbly with an outstanding performances that burns off the screen.
As good as Idris Elba is as support, this is Chastain’s film. She is the lead, something which not only deserves and warrants pointing out – Hollywood needs to take note and repeat it. There are no words to express just how refreshing it is to see a female lead like this, one who is smart and given clear acknowledgment for being so. There’s also the fact her storyline, her primary goal, is not about looking for love- something which I’d be hard pressed to name many other films with a central female lead being in possession of. Whilst many films will feature a male lead in circumstance without a love plot, that’s not so true of female characters. Here love – at least romantic love and the ensnaring of it – is not a factor. Not at all. Instead it’s about the mechanics of a system that Molly first entered inadvertently, then leapt head first into when she realised how much money she could make.
Slick and sharply told. That’s how you start 2018 off right.