MOVIE BUFF-ET: Entertaining dialogue strengthens Sorkin’s ‘Molly’s Game’


Aaron Sorkin’s a gifted writer. His words have charmed and thrilled us for decades in films such as “A Few Good Men,” “Moneyball” and the “Social Network”and in TV shows like “The West Wing,” “Sports Night,” and “The Newsroom.”

Based on the film “Molly’s Game,” he’s also got directorial chops that belie his inexperience. The film is an impressive directorial debut that makes me want to see more from him.

New In Local Theaters

  • Proud Mary (R) 1 hr. 28 min.
    (AMC Fiesta Square, Malco Razorback, Malco Rogers Towne, Bentonville Skylight)
    » Watch trailer
  • The Post (PG-13) 1 hr. 56 min.
    (AMC Fiesta Square, Bentonville Skylight, Malco Razorback, Malco Springdale, Malco Rogers Towne)
    » Watch trailer
  • Paddington 2 (PG) 1 hr. 43 min.
    (AMC Fiesta Square, Malco Razorback, Malco Springdale, Malco Pinnacle Hills)
    » Watch trailer
  • The Commuter (PG-13) 1 hr. 45 min.
    (AMC Fiesta Square, Malco Razorback, Malco Springdale, Malco Pinnacle Hills)
    » Watch trailer

Sorkin wrote the script based on the tell-all memoir of Molly Bloom’s escapades as the runner of high-stakes poker games first in Hollywood and later in New York that featured money in amounts most viewers can only dream of. Millions were won and lost on her tables nightly, and sometimes with the turn of one card.

The film deals with the legal travails that faced Bloom after the FBI busted her New York game because Russia mafia members were suspected of laundering dirty money through her games of skill and chance.

Jessica Chastain plays Molly as a gritty, tough, and alluring former Olympic-aspiring athlete whose dreams are dashed by the placement off a twig on the ski slopes. With her Olympic dreams crushed, Molly tumbles into hosting the gambling parties after delaying entrance into law school.

Chastain excels at delivering the rapid-fire dialogue Sorkin is known for and her wickedly fun narration is captivating as she explains the ins and outs of the world of high-stakes poker. The film has the feel of a lighter Scorsese film. It’s not as bold or outside the box as as director Adam McKay’s “The Big Short,” but the dialogue dances delightfully close to the same neighborhood.

Idris Elba offers excellent support as Bloom’s at-first dubious lawyer Charlie Jaffe. Initially, he doesn’t trust Bloom for a second, but through working with her, he discovers a core integrity amid the rot that has overtaken her life. Elba’s monologue in her defense during a deposition is rousing.

Despite how strong Sorkin’s words are and no matter how maleficently they flow off the tongues of actors as gifted as Chastain, Elba, and Kevin Costner, who plays Molly’s father, it’s hard to have a ton of sympathy for a character like Molly. And, seems to be what Sorkin seems to be working so hard to do with this film. It’s a strong pitch, but ultimately no sale for me.

Though I didn’t walk away sympathizing with the main character, I did enjoy the movie quite a bit and am eagerly anticipating Sorkin’s next directorial effort.

(R) 2 hr. 20 min.
Grade: B

Classics Corner

Treasure of the Sierra Madre

There are some solid movies out in local theaters, but if you want to see the best one, the Malco Razorbacks offers two opportunities this week to catch “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre” at 2 p.m. Sunday and 7 p.m. Tuesday.

The film is a classic about three desperate men chasing after the wind in a quest not only for gold, but also purpose and meaning in their lives. The movie is a masterpiece written and directed by the legendary John Houston and based on the thrilling B. Traven novel of the same name.

The 1948 film stars Humphrey Bogart in one of his best roles as the paranoid Fred C. Dobbs who joins two others in a search for gold in a Mexican mine. Bogart’s performance is feverishly compelling as a man whose fears drive him to the brink. You don’t know whether to hate or pity his character, Dobbs.

Equally as strong is Walter Houston —the director’s father — as the old prospector Howard, who falls in with Dobbs and his co-worker Bob Curtin (Tim Holt) on their quest. Walter Houston is one of the great character actors of his era. The wild laugh he created for his Oscar-winning role of Howard is unforgettable as the jig he dances with the trio finds gold.

Holt is the glue of the movie, playing the most grounded character. His performance is clear and strong, pitted against the showier roles of Bogart and Houston.

The three main characters act as warring personifications of the id, ego and super-ego in film that subtly interlaces a morality play within the adventure of the gripping character-driven plot.

When the trio encounters a group of bandits trying to disguise themselves as Federales, the movie yields one of filmdom’s most quoted lines in “Badges? We ain’t got no badges. We don’t need no badges! I don’t have to show you any stinkin’ badges!”

The film is a must-see for movie buffs whether you take advantage of one of the big-screen showings this week or see it on another platform.