Molly's Game

Tony Ling
27th Jan 2018

Few writers let alone screenwriters get as much of a rockstar status as Aaron Sorkin. This is the man behind the screenplay of The Social Network, Steve Jobs, A Few Good Men, and Moneyball, as well as hit TV shows like The West Wing and The Newsroom. Sorkin has made a reputation for himself in telling intelligent, complex and poignant stories with his trademark of smarts and style. This guy is basically the bane of every screenwriting teacher's modus operandi. He is the exception, the rebel, and the revolutionary to all the classic adages of how to write a story in film school. And now the cat is even more out of the bag as Aaron Sorkin makes his directorial debut on this based-on-a-true-story book adaptation (that he wrote for the screen) Molly's Game. But does this keyboard punching, dialogue devoting, storytelling extraordinaire need a leash in the director's chair? Yeah, a little I reckon.

Molly's Game stars the ever-so-beautiful Jessica Chastain as Molly, an ambitious overachiever in her life who decides to ditch law school to become the showrunner for the biggest, underground poker game to the world's most exclusive millionaires, business tycoons and celebrities. The story is told with an explosive amount of energy. Literally. Cuts can happen seriously fast with energetic and fast-paced editing to coincide with what is quite possibly the biggest voiceover movie I've seen to date.

And herein comes an iconic trope of Sorkin. His undying love for rapid-fire dialogue. You have not experienced a ‘dialogue-driven' movie until you've seen some of Sorkin's crazy incantations about it. This man can spew exposition and heated exchanges like it's 1999. But then comes that classic creative writing adage of "show and not tell". Aaron Sorkin is one of the few storytellers that can get away with it with his stylistic blend of sophistication, wit and persona that gave great insight into the sophisticated characters of his past works like Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs. But even in this film, you start to try and catch your breath a bit. It's an information powerhouse. You'd think this story would be incredibly compromised by this very obvious and classic shortcoming. But it doesn't. At least not that much.

While you question how many acts of cinematography aren't used just to support the dialogue, this lavish fall-from-grace story is seriously brought to life by the performances of the cast. Chastain commands an intelligent and powerfully influential woman just like her previous roles in Zero Dark Thirty and Interstellar. Idris Elba wouldn't have been my first choice to be cast as a lawyer savant, but he plays the role adequately. Kevin Costner seems to be a brilliant actor for fatherhood figures as he subtly lives the role as Molly's therapist father that wants nothing but absolute excellence for his offspring.

The film's cinematography certainly does marry the edgy and raunchy score done by rising film composer: Daniel Pemberton. It enhances the weight of every action, yet does not contain as much of an identity as his past works to accommodate the grand scale of storytelling that Sorkin unleashes. The camera has some incredible focus pulls that lets you in on what Molly is thinking. But once again, it's stylish panning and stills remains under the tight leash of the film's dialogue.

Molly's Game is a splendour of auteur filmmaking. You can see everything Sorkin's ever dreamed of on-screen yet without the subtly and cinematic pace that many of his previous films had at the discretion of veteran directors like Fincher and Boyle. The man has made a fantastic debut of his directorial debut, but there is still some polish to be had. While you do enjoy it immensely as you watch it with style and words that is eye-popping and engaging, it is disheartening to note how little you feel about it sometime after you leave the cinema. However, this is an devilishly smart and entertaining film that only falls slightly under the weight of its ambition. A worthy treat into the directorial potential of our most coveted hipster screenwriter.

Molly's Game opens in Australian cinemas on Thursday February 1st.