Can you make a five-star drama that lasts for 140 minutes with heavy dialogue, fairly unknown actors and an Aaron Sorkin script?
If you’re Aaron Sorkin, you can. Molly’s Game is so far the best picture of the year.
Let’s get into whys.
It’s fair to say that the first-time movie director but long-time screenwriter, Sorkin, got some help from the book with the same title written by Molly Bloom. It’s a popular non-fiction account of a 26-year-old woman behind iconic underground poker games, involving actors from Leonardo DiCaprio to Ben Affleck. (In the film, the names of the players have been fictionalized.)
While I’m still reading the book, and it appears fine, the best picture rating has not much to do with poker or famous circles.
Molly’s Game becomes a gem because of the Oscar-worthy performance by Jessica Chastain (Molly Bloom) and the incredible talent of Idris Elba (her lawyer Charlie Jaffey), whose synergy under the direction of Sorkin will rock your seat. It’s unbelievable that Chastain, who plays the poker queen, can hardly explain the rules of roulette in real life. (Interview with Jimmy Fallon – November 17, 2017.)
For all I know, Sorkin, Chastain and Elba could probably tell a tale of a dustman in the city of Kotka and still score well on the list of Oscar contenders. Molly’s Game, however, happens far away from Kotka — in Los Angeles and New York.
Big places, big games but not what we could consider big actors. Until maybe now. Chastain has brought us a couple of great performances in Zero Dark Thirty (2012) and Miss Sloane (2016). Elba is known from TV, Luther probably the best example. The most famous actor is the film veteran Kevin Costner, who plays Molly’s father giving a solid performance by Costner standards.
Over the years, Sorkin has delighted movie and TV viewers with gripping scripts for films such as A Few Good Men (1992), The Social Network (2010) and the unforgettable TV drama The Newsroom (2012-2014), but it’s hard to believe that it’s the first time he is commanding a movie set.
Sorkin has the ability to push actors to perform intense scenes where they live the dialogue with their whole bodies; verbal kung fu at its finest.
This leads to heavy breathing, unexpected chuckles and sloppy eating of popcorn.
While yet to see other heavy hitters in the Oscar race such as The Darkest Hour and The Post, I’m going all-in for Molly.
Molly’s Game premieres in cinemas January 26, 2018.