Most successful individuals must work or train tirelessly to hone their craft, devoting a lifetime to reaching the pinnacles of their professions. Yet, somehow Aaron Sorkin appears to circumvent the norm with his seemingly effortless skills that have transformed the screenwriter and playwright into an Oscar-winning titan of the industry. Sorkin's rare mastery of rapid dialogue interspersed with comedic undertones are staples in cinematic achievements such as A Few Good Men, The Social Network, Moneyball and countless others. But now Sorkin feels ready to embrace the next major challenge in his life, as the prestigious writer tackles his directorial debut with the unbelievable true story behind his new film, Molly's Game.
After a crushing defeat ends the Olympic dreams of young skiing sensation Molly Bloom (Jessica Chastain), she ventures to California for a sunny retreat from her intense training and stressful upbringing at the behest of her father (Kevin Costner). While on the west coast, a series of odd jobs somehow navigates Molly into the underworld of high-stakes poker headlined by actors, athletes, politicians and all other kinds of celebrities. But as Molly's thirst for expensive taste and a desperation to be a part of the action crosses the line of legality, she's forced to beg attorney Charlie Jaffey (Idris Elba) for his counsel after the U.S. government presses serious charges and confiscate all of her finances.
If you're a fan of Aaron Sorkin's past work, his trademark style is on full display once again in Molly's Game. Told through a non-chronological approach, the audience is given a thorough glance into the mindset of a remarkably gifted woman who trades her intellectual and physical strengths for a dark and exhausting life of underground gambling. Molly is at the forefront of nearly every scene, paving the way for Jessica Chastain to grow an audacious and compelling character. Despite Molly's crazy life story that manages to stay engaging even through a lofty 140-minute affair, Chastain's performance is strong but not transcendent. Her work rings familiar to another recent turn Chastain delivered in John Madden's Miss Sloane, and the similarities sour the experience a bit. Idris Elba and Kevin Costner provide stellar supporting performances as well, but the largest issue with Molly's Game is the film's inability to elevate the stakes. The story feels grossly repetitious at times and its dramatic conclusion is regrettably flat. However, Sorkin's usage of heavy dialogue is executed to his typical standards, keeping a comfortable beat and tempo that's constantly moving and never bores. Molly's Game is a decent effort and a fine directorial debut for Sorkin despite the movie's lack of necessary escalation.