Friday, February 2, 2018

End-of-year catch-up: Don't let Aaron Sorkin's fast-moving frolic, MOLLY'S GAME, get by you

One would expect any movie written by that wordsmith wonder, Aaron Sorkin, to revel in and rely on dialog that's fast and fun. As first-time director, he has also come through with pretty much flying colors, giving us a movie --  MOLLY'S GAME, based on the memoir by poker queen (and so much more) Molly Bloom -- in which his directorial abilities nearly match those of his writing.

Only in a scene late in the film between a difficult dad (Kevin Costner) and his daughter (the titular Molly, played by Jessica Chastain) do both writing and direction leave a bit to be desired, but by then, so terrific has been so much else in this meaty and riveting film, that I don't think you'll mind much.

Mr. Sorkin, shown at right, has taken Molly's true-life tale and from it created a fast-moving frolic about everything from sports and poker to Hollywood, celebrity, and the Jewish mafia and made it both understandable and great fun to view.

He has also assembled a top-of-the-line cast so interestingly chosen and often playing against type in rather amusing, amazing ways that his movie grabs you from angles other that mere story-line and plot surprise and manages to hold you fast throughout.

Chief among these actors is Idris Elba (above), who plays Molly's initially recalcitrant lawyer who eventually comes aboard big-time, and Michael Cera (below), who gives us what may be the ultimate take-down of the Hollywood movie star celebrity who can go from funny and charming as hell to as nasty and vindictive as you could want.

Also on board and doing wonderful work is Chris O'Dowd (below) as one of the saddest of the gamblers that surround our heroine.

Ditto Brian D'Arcy James, below, as another odd fellow who joins the pack and is so much less and then more than what he initially seems.

Don't worry if you don't fully understand how poker is played. (TrustMovies' grandmother taught him the game, and he still retains a good deal of that knowledge.) Sorkin sees to it that his viewers can understand and keep up with the shenanigans enough to follow and enjoy. His great gift for burying exposition into his dialog, disguising it enough so that we learn while we enjoy, is on full display here.

In the lead role of Molly, Ms Chastain (above, with Mr. Costner, and at bottom) once again proves why she is among -- maybe the reigning queen of -- those very few actresses who combine glamour and talent in such huge quantity that, while watching her, you can't imagine anyone else being any better in the role. (This actress proved just as adept in last year's Miss Sloane, as well.)

Even if you already know many of the details of this fascinating tale, I still suspect Sorkin's film will entertain you royally. There's a lovely scene near the finale involving Graham Greene (below) as a judge who, thank god, is smarter than most of the prosecutors who surround him and makes a point that audiences these days will probably second with a standing ovation.

So why hasn't a movie this good -- smart, mainstream and hugely entertaining -- received more critical acclaim and awards? My take is that Sorkin is considered by some as just too damn smart for his own good. Which, so far as most of Hollywood's talent level is concerned, seems like looking that proverbial gift horse in the mouth. Once again, intelligent audiences -- which are keeping this movie playing at theaters across the country well past its supposed expiration date -- often know better than critics (and certainly know better than those movie-land arbiters) what is actually good for them.

From STX Entertainment and running a long but consistently engrossing 140 minutes, Molly's Game is very probably still playing in a theater near you. Click here to find one.

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