Aaron Sorkin makes his directorial debut with the true story of Molly Bloom, who ran some of the most exclusive (and lucrative) poker games in both Los Angeles and New York. The film follows her as she goes from an office assistant to being relied on by some of the wealthiest men in the country. Soon though, she is in too deep and the FBI come calling – meaning she needs the help of a charismatic lawyer.
This film in some ways is classic Aaron Sorkin, all about numbers and smart people. He is mostly known as a sharp screenwriter (A Few Good Men, The Social Network, Moneyball, Steve Jobs), however his efforts this time are a little blunter. Some of the dialogue doesn’t land and the film isn’t as tightly structured as his previous work. Of course this means the screenplay is still well above average, but it’s not close to the perfection of The Social Network. Jessica Chastain as Molly is at the centre of the movie, and she does well with the material. She has a lot on her shoulders in this performance and she just about holds it up. Alongside her is Idris Elba as her lawyer Charlie Jaffey, who is given some entertaining monologues. The rest of the cast pop in and out, with plenty of familiar faces, including Michael Cera in probably his most diverse role of his career. Thanks to these players the film was never dull, and the back and forth between characters are the real thrills of the run-time.
It moves at a quick pace, though is structured strangely. The chronology didn’t totally work, especially at the beginning and the film doesn’t really find its feet until about an hour in. As well as this there is a constant voice-over from Jessica Chastain explaining everything that was happening on screen. Now, I’m a fan of narration, but this never stopped. Every other scene was her talking over something, rather than it let it play out itself. This meant that the experience was a bit limiting because you are always brought out of the moment. Despite this, it’s an engrossing tale with some interesting characters along the way. It was strong when it allowed the film to focus on particular elements of the story, instead of it telling us. The themes Sorkin is portraying are touched on heavily, and the climax is satisfying because of that. He perhaps isn’t being as introspective as he thinks when the film delves into chance, parental relationships, winning & losing etc but it’s enough to make the film thoroughly watchable.
Is it worth the price of a cinema ticket?