Review / ‘Molly’s Game’ (MA) *** and a half

THE game is high-stakes poker, with a six-digit entry fee. And the game’s owner is a statuesque redhead who had been a Winter Olympics aspirant before a back-breaking accident.

“Molly’s Game” is the directing debut of Aaron Sorkin, who also wrote the screenplay based on Molly’s book. Molly’s parents gave her the same name as the principal female character in James Joyce’s path-breaking 1921 novel “Ulysses”. Kevin Costner plays her father, whose involvement in the screenplay may be contrived.

A master of dialogue and situation, Sorkin’s not bad at directing either, although “Molly’s Game” tends to be a bit flicky timewise. He’s not greatly concerned about the morality of gambling because neither are the story’s characters. People gamble. It’s a psychological disease. A dear friend who suffered from it also knew more about movies than I ever will and I miss his wise counsel. He did impart gambling’s basic laws to me. The house always wins. Don’t chase losses with good money. Don’t bet more than you can afford to lose.

Enough of this nostalgia. Playing Molly, Jessica Chastain dominates the screen. She’s built that way. As well, a very long list of nominations for awards and awards received for 50 roles in only 13 years bears testimony to her acting chops.

When the FBI arrests Molly for offences that took place two years earlier, Molly is going to need a good lawyer. Idris Elba plays Charlie Jaffey for whom Sorkin has written strong dialogue.

High-stakes poker is a major character throughout the film. A committed player may feel comfortable trying to follow its game sequences. The rest of us must be content with the tensions that develop less with the hands played than with the bets. And the debts. It all works well enough.

At all cinemas

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