Molly’s Game, written and directed by Aaron Sorkin, feels like a film that continually jingling a set of shiny keys directly in front of your face; sure, it grabs your attention, but it soon becomes irritating, and then insufferable. The film’s premise is interesting, at first, and it offers the usual characteristics that you’ve come accustom to, when it comes to Sorkin-esque characters, but as it went on and it continued to be exactly what I expected it to be, the more tedious and uninteresting I found it to be. There were certainly elements to this film that I enjoyed, and I am a fan of Sorkin’s style and his previous work, but there was something about this film (his directorial debut) that I found myself unable to like. Let’s explore what Molly’s Game has to offer and see if it’s something you might enjoy.
Based upon a true story, we follow the story of Molly Bloom – portrayed by Jessica Chastain – who went from being a possible Olympic Skier, to someone who ran one of the most exclusive, high-stakes poker games in the US – which inevitably garnered her the attention of the Russian mob and the FBI.
I feel the want to state upfront that I have enjoyed Aaron Sorkin’s work for many years (The West Wing, The Newsroom, Steve Jobs, etc.) and so I’m not sure what brought on the feelings I had when watching Molly’s Game, but I felt fatigued and… bored by much of what I was watching. From the very beginning and onwards, I found myself struggling to want to interact with, or be subjected to Sorkin’s usual shock-and-awe style of writing. I really did try my best to push those feelings to the back of my mind and try to begin to enjoy the story and characters on offer in the film, but it never happened.
I am of the opinion that a general audience will find enjoyment in Molly’s Game – Sorkin wouldn’t be as successful and well-known, if that wasn’t the case for so many of his other projects. So I want to lay all that out before I jump into my detailed deconstruction of why I found Molly’s Game to be an unlikeable, tedious, pointless endeavour that never seemed to amount to anything, other than Sorkin continuing to show why he’s one of the most dazzling writers in Hollywood, but perhaps not much else when you look only slightly beneath the surface.
I think one of the biggest issues for me in this film: was that the title character, Molly, was someone I didn’t ever care about. I wasn’t invested in her story, I wasn’t worried about what would become of her during her upcoming trial. And I think the reason for feeling this way was that Sorkin never presented a character to me who I wanted to root for, or could find any common ground with. It’s also that the overbearing story leaves Molly to take a back seat in favour of the story, thus the flashier aspects of her life are continually pushed upon you. Jessica Chastain delivers a decent performance, but I was continually reminded of her similar and far superior performance in the 2017 film, Miss Sloane.
Also, the aspect to her character that I found to be the most compelling; the dynamic between her and her father – played by Kevin Costner – felt more like an afterthought. The best scene in the film, in my opinion, was when Molly and her father sat down for a frank conversation; laying out exactly how they feel/felt. It was one of the few times where it didn’t feel like the film was bombarding me with its plot, and was allowing two interesting characters with a meaningful connection to actually be real people, who have a real conversation. The rest of the time, the film was just unbearably piling more and more of story in my lap, and I wanted it to either slow down and take a breather – let characters grow and feel genuine – or simply just stop.
You see, the majority of the film is focused on forever overloading you with Molly’s story, and it delivers it in the most irritating way – voiceover. Molly narrates her entire back-story to you; this is something I really don’t like in films. A character narrating an entire story to you feels lazy and intrusive. But it’s made even worse by the fact that it’s Sorkin’s overbearing style of writing and delivery. There were points where I hoped for a little bit of silence; for the film to just let the story play out for itself and let me have my own interpretation of things, rather than it just dictate everything to me; how to feel, what to think, etc. I began to think that Sorkin was afraid of letting any moment of silence or reflection creep into his film. He must be one of those people at parties who fears a moment where no one is talking and has to fill it with any sort of talking, no matter how pointless or irrelevant it is.
That’s what much of the dialogue in this film felt like: pointless, empty, irrelevant talking for the sake of talking. Characters would have long diatribes about everything and anything, that ultimately would result in nothing more than to make the dialogue seem more dense and thoughtful, even though it wasn’t. I’ve certainly enjoyed some of Arron Sorkin’s other work, and I’ve gained an appreciation for his style over the years, but there was something so irritating about it in this film, to the extent that I found it to be detrimental to it as a whole.
Scene after scene filled with fancy, extended conversations about people I didn’t care about and things I had no interest in, were what I felt continually bombarded by. And much of it felt like Arron Sorkin just trying to show how smart and superior he is, and by proxy, his characters as well. It’s a film totally lacking in subtlety; never allowing for anything to remain unsaid. Everything has to be drilled down into and explored to such a point that only the carcass of the theme or idea is left. It all felt so hollow and void of meaning.
I was interested in seeing a film directed by Arron Sorkin for the first time (having only had the opportunity to experience his writing) and what I will say is that Sorkin clearly seems to have been watching the many other talented directors he’s worked with over the years and has learned quite a bit about the craft. He doesn’t do anything that wows or stands out, but he does deliver a competent, well executed film. Having control of the script and the directing of it, gives Sorkin the ability to portray things the way he sees them in his head and I found that to both be a good thing and a bad thing. Much of the in your face elements of his writing, transfer over into his directing style, which again leaves very little unsaid and everything forced upon you. But I’m still interested to see if he’ll direct again and if he’ll perhaps tackle directing a script he didn’t write – now that would be interesting.
Overall though, I found this film to be a shouty, irritating film that for the most part was empty. I was far more interested in Molly’s home life with her family, but that’s relegated to very condensed moments, and it’s her overly explained career that takes up the film; filled with unlikeable rich people throwing around money and terminology that again, felt forced down my throat. More than anything else, I felt fatigued watching this film, and worse… bored.
I don’t recommend, Molly’s Game. This is a 140-minute film that could have easily been a 120-minute film, if not less, but Sorkin’s insistence on filling every moment with words, means the film becomes a bloated, tedious mess. Fans of Arron Sorkin and his style will probably enjoy this film, so it really comes down to the question: do you like watching Sorkin’s work? If so, then you’ll probably enjoy this film quite a bit, but for me, the fun of his style has more than worn off, and if it has for you as well, then this is one you’ll definitely want to pass on.
What did you think of Molly’s Game and my review of it? Let me know in the comments section down below. I’d appreciate it if you could follow both my blog and my Twitter – @GavinsRamblings. But now we’re at the end and that’s left to say is thank you and I hope you have a great day!