Last week, I had the pleasure of getting tickets to a preview screening and Q and A with Jessica Chastain in Sydney for her new movie, Molly’s Game (and here are some photos that aren’t mine, but they’re still gorgeous!)
The movie is based on the real Molly Bloom, and her book of the same name. Aaron Sorkin did the screenplay and was director, and the movie chronicles her childhood with a demanding father and mother who sort of fades into the woodwork when he pushes his kids to be the best. I don’t know what liberties or what changes Sorkin has made in this portrayal and her parents when compared to the book, but there is definitely a focus on her father’s relationship with her, and how he shaped her.
Molly’s Game chronicles how Molly Bloom got to the point that she’s in need of a lawyer, Charlie (Idris Elba) to get her out of a prison sentence and an indictment two years after she’d stopped running games. With these two setting the scene in the present, the rest of the film delves into her past and how she got to the point of needing Charlie.
Molly was an elite skier when she was injured in a competition and found herself trying to figure out what to do with her life at 22, when up to that point all she’d ever known was skiing. I’m constantly amazed at how much of a chameleon Chastain is, no more so than in this movie when she plays a young, innocent (but very intelligent) Molly, who moves to LA, finds a job and finds herself hosting a high-stakes poker game for a man and wannabe hotshot poker player that never really saw her – her intelligence, especially and what she did for his game, and could have done had he not fired her.
From that point, the Poker Princess myth was borne and Chastain transforms into a beautiful, polished Molly, who builds her empire in LA. She knows how to play the men that come to her for the highest of high stakes game, to appeal to their egos to continue playing. The men are ridiculously egotistical, playing and losing money. The thing about Molly according to the movie is that as ruthless as she can be, she’s not a bastard out to destroy lives. She tries to get some men to cool their heels gambling but it’s not like they listen.
Speaking of bastards, it’s Player X (Michael Cera, who please forgive me for the rest of this sentence) – who is a slimy, ferret faced bastard who seems to be so bored all he wants to do is destroy people he doesn’t like or who don’t give him what he wants – including Molly. Apparently, he’s based in part on Tobey Mcguire, who was a frequent player. That’s how she ends up in New York, building her empire (again) from scratch and getting into trouble in an entirely different way.
By this point in the movie, Chastain’s Molly is a drug addict, alcoholic and world weary. Perhaps that’s why she gets caught — she lets her usual checks of players and their backgrounds slip, and the FBI comes calling.
In the present Charlie would rather she do whatever it takes to look out for herself — including outing the men who played at her games and their unfiltered emails and text messages about their families and their lives – than actually protect them and their lives from imploding with the information she has on her computers about them.
Elba is toned down from his usual roles, or perhaps it’s just that Chastain takes up all the space as Molly. It really doesn’t matter because their scenes are still electric, and their push and pull during the case makes the transition from past to present seamless and utterly compelling because when I watched their scenes, I wasn’t longing to return to the past, and when I was watching the scenes of Molly’s past, I wasn’t longing to return to the present. There’s a balance in those narratives that was engaging on every level.
After the movie, Jessica Chastain (with a special appearance by her gran in the audience) was on hand to answer audience questions and talk about the movie. She’s so supremely soft spoken, and little in real life, and when I watch her in a movie, I never actually realise that. She talked about Sorkin as a writer and director, and how being an actress has changed in the current climate – and how she sort of feels at ease talking and tweeting about the politically charged things she does.
Molly’s Game is a utterly compelling so go see it!