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Aaron Sorkin makes a crackling directorial debut with “Molly’s Game”

Merry Christmas! As you open your presents, a really terrific film is also opening today, in theaters. It’s Molly’s Game, the directorial debut of ace scribe Aaron Sorkin. Long considered one of the best writers in Hollywood, he’s moved behind the camera to direct this drama, becoming a full fledged filmmaker. Sorkin makes a terrific debut here too, showing he’s just a strong a director, which is exciting to consider when thinking about his future. Now out in theaters, it’s potentially an awards player too. If that doesn’t scream must see, I don’t know what does. This is a flick not to miss, ladies and gentlemen.

The film is a biopic of Molly Bloom (Jessica Chastain), a former Olympic quality skier who ended up running some of the most notorious poker games in the country. In adapting her memoir, the movie showcases Molly going from a mere assistant in an underground poker game run by Dean Keith (Jeremy Strong) to eventually operating highly successful ones of her own, first in Los Angeles, and then in New York. Her clientele was exclusively high class figures, including famous celebrities like Player X (Michael Cera) and, apparently unbeknownst to her, the mob. When the FBI comes down on her one night, she’s essentially ruined. Looking for help, she’s eventually defended by a skeptical attorney in Charlie Jaffey (Idris Elba), someone who sees through her act. Through it all, her father Larry (Kevin Costnr) looms large. Sorkin adapted Bloom’s memoir, as mentioned above, and directs here, also as previously discussed. Rounding out the cast are the likes of Bill Camp, Brian d’Arcy James, Graham Greene, Samantha Isler, Joe Keery, Madison McKinley, Natalie Krill, Chris O’Dowd, Rachel Skarsten, and many more. Daniel Pemberton contributes the score, while cinematography is by Charlotte Bruus Christensen.

I’m really fond of this movie. It pairs Chastain and Sorkin together, which is a perfect match. Chastain feasts on his dialogue, eating it up with a spoon. Her gusto for the part is evident. Sorkin also proves a surprisingly solid visual stylist, never getting in the way of the script, but never being a slave to it either. Chastain is as good as ever, while Costner and Elba are excellent in supporting roles. The film goes on a little long and doesn’t quite stick the landing (no pun intended) with the ending, but it’s still a very good picture.

Here is how I would rank Sorkin’s screenplays to date:

8. Malice
7. Molly’s Game
6. Charlie Wilson’s War
5. Steve Jobs
4. Moneyball
3. The American President
2. The Social Network
1. A Few Good Men

Here also is an updated ranking of Chastain’s performances so far:

10. The Martian
9. Jolene
8. Take Shelter
7. The Tree of Life
6. A Most Violent Year
5. Molly’s Game
4. Interstellar
3. The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Her
2. Miss Sloane
1. Zero Dark Thirty

Honorable Mentions: The Disappearance of Eleanor Rigby: Them, The Help, Lawless, and Texas Killing Fields

Oscar wise, Molly’s Game may slip through the cracks a bit, and that’s a real shame. It deserves to contend in Best Picture, Best Director (for Sorkin), Best Actress (for Chastain), Best Supporting Actor (for Costner and Elba), Best Adapted Screenplay (also for Sorkin), Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing, and Best Original Score. At the moment, it really only seems like Sorkin in Adapted Screenplay is on the Academy’s radar, though you can never count out Chastain completely, even with Actress as stacked as it currently is. Everything else seems like a long shot, which gives the film a bit of a shortchanging, as it deserves more acclaim.

Today, audiences can see Chastain in action as well as Sorkin directing for the first time with Molly’s Game. I know it’s Christmas Day, but it’s a big day for movies, so make sure you do your cinephile duty and head to theaters. There’s plenty of new releases out there, with this one as good as any. If you love Chastain or Sorkin (or, hopefully, both), this movie is right up your alley. It’s one of the year’s better biopics and well worth your time. Give it a look and see what you think. Oh, and obviously, Happy Holidays as well. Enjoy your day…

Be sure to check out Molly’s Game, in theaters now!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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