Film review: Molly’s Game

Still from Molly's Game
“You call that a game face, Molly?”

Molly’s Game (15) Directed by Aaron Sorkin DVD £7.99, Blu-Ray £14.99

Businesses come in all shapes and forms and, as this film based on a true story makes clear, running a high-end poker game is not so very different from running a technology start-up or hedge fund. After a freak accident ruins her skiing career, the protagonist, Molly Bloom (played by Jessica Chastain), sets off for Los Angeles for a gap year. A few chance encounters lead to her becoming the PA to a developer who runs poker games. After he steals her wages, she decides to run her own game. Things turn sour and she ends up bankrupt.

Aaron Sorkin, who wrote the screenplay and makes his directorial debut, gives us a huge amount of detail about the mechanics of what Bloom did. This helps us appreciate the huge number of business decisions she had to make on a daily basis, including how much credit to extend to gamblers, the value of intangible assets such as client lists, her approach to regulatory risk and how to deal with an attempted hostile takeover from gangsters.

Sorkin’s approach doesn’t work so well when it comes to Bloom’s emotional journey. From the start she comes across as a cold character, and we don’t get a sense of any vulnerability, even when her business is collapsing around her. Worse, Sorkin overcompensates with a schmaltzy scene towards the very end. The film is still a cut above the average biopic, but it would have benefited from a director who was willing to take a more subtle approach to some of the exposition.