Review | Molly’s Game

By Daniel Hart
Published: January 7, 2018 (Last updated: January 18, 2024)
Molly's Game - Movie Review

Molly’s Game

Director Aaron Sorkin
Writer(s) Molly Bloom (book), Aaron Sorkin (screenplay)
Rating 15
Release Date September 8, 2017 (Toronto International Film Festival)

What’s this? 

Molly Bloom. You may not have heard of her. I was distinctly unaware of the infamous entrepreneur before Molly’s Game. Her memoir is kind of a big deal. She managed to establish one of the most privileged and rich underground poker establishments in America. In addition, many wealthy famous faces attended these regular events. To name a few: Leonardo DiCaprio, Ben Affleck, and Tobey Maguire. Her management of a lucrative fancy poker night led to the FBI arresting her for illegal sports operations gambling. To skip past the illegal financial bullshit, she took a cut of the table that she shouldn’t have. Oh, and she used to be a competitive skier, but in the grand scheme of things, it feels heavily irrelevant, even in the movie.

Is this another The Wolf of Wall Street or War Dogs?

Yes and no. Molly’s Game is a memoir brought to life by a confessional protagonist that does not cut corners. In comparison, you could argue it does have the bearings of Jordan Belfort’s story, however, this movie feels rawer. The other films do not develop the lead character in a way where you are unsure of their intentions; they love money – that’s it. Molly’s Game is different. It leaves the audience curious about why Molly has chosen the lifestyle she has. It makes an emotional point to show her briefly as a child trying to become a world-class skier under her impatient, demanding dad. Their unhealthy relationship is something that is left to be desired throughout the story.

There are no moments of triumphs, sweet moments or closure. She needs a lawyer in the form of Idris Elba. She’s in trouble. Molly has a story to tell and Molly’s Game does well to show the true essence of a memoir, avoiding being perceived as a feel-good crime drama.

Is Molly’s Game an enjoyable experience?

The drama is a captivating viewing. The movie brings the memoir to life with a series of narrations and microscopic details into Molly’s privileged poker empire. Nearly all of the scenes are narrated by the protagonist, who has a logical way of thinking, as she draws you in with a step by step process of how she approaches each situation.

The movie does indulge itself in many scenes of poker plays, breaking down each character’s motive on the table. One of my criticisms is that the poker feels almost void for the purpose of the scenes. Molly’s Game did not need to tell us the rules or show multiple rounds. We know they are playing poker. We know there are character flaws. That’s all we need to know. Despite the criticism, the movie does well to make the adaptation of the memoir interesting. You fully appreciate the reasons for opening up the world to her story and the complications of taking on the USA in court.

What are the performances like?

Molly‘s Game is a one performance show. Idris Elba provides a rich supporting performance as the lawyer, Kevin Costner does well to be the reserved argumentative father, and Michael Cera deserves credit for being the elusive Player X. I will discuss that shortly. The real limelight is Jessica Chastain, who may have gotten herself a few nominations in awards season. In recent years, in movies like Interstellar, The Martian, and even Zero Dark Thirty, she has established herself as a memorable performer.

The actor manages to covertly convey her emotions to the point that it feels secret and almost private between her character and the audience. The character she is representing, Molly, is smart, calculated, virtually the anti-villain, and you are inquisitive about her throughout. It feels slightly intrusive that you want to understand her secrets and it is her performance that achieves this notion. Molly’s Game is not enough to win Best Picture, but she at least deserves the Best Actress nomination. She is the diamond of the story. Even her narration is impressive.

Who is Player X?

In this movie, it is actually Michael Cera as Michael Cera, but in the memoir, it is heavily suggested to be either Leonardo DiCaprio, Ben Affleck or Tobey Maguire. According to reports, it is very, very likely to be Tobey Maguire, because of various reasons. If it is then it does not look good for him. The fact is, we are unlikely to ever know.

Any other reservations for Molly’s Game?

The movie is too long (2 hours and 20 minutes) for what it is. There are various scenes that may not have been needed or could have been shorter. Molly’s Game struggles to balance itself between Molly’s recollection of her story and the scenes between herself and the lawyer Charlie Jaffey. Sometimes it feels oddly imbalanced, like they could not distinguish what felt more important. This takes the wind out of the momentum.

The criticisms can be overlooked for displaying a worthy story and it is Aaron Sorkin’s directorial debut, so it is worth forgiveness.


Molly’s Game does not cut corners or sweeten the crime at hand. That’s the story’s strength. Coupled with a fine performance from Jessica Chastain, the movie is one of the good reveals from 2017. Watch it.

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