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dir-scr Aaron Sorkin
prd Mark Gordon, Matt Jackson, Amy Pascal
with Jessica Chastain, Idris Elba, Kevin Costner, Michael Cera, Chris O'Dowd, Jeremy Strong, Brian d'Arcy James, Graham Greene, Bill Camp, JC MacKenzie, Justin Kirk, Angela Gots
release US 25.Dec.17, UK 1.Jan.18
17/US eOne 2h40
Here comes the judge: Chastain and Elba
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E|
For the first time, Aaron Sorkin takes the reins to direct one of his rapid-fire scripts, and the resulting film is pretty much what you'd expect: fast, smart and witty. It's also a true story told over nearly two and a half hours, which is a little exhausting even if its sharpness holds the attention. The big question is why the film never breaks the surface.
After her competitive skiing career ends in injury, the fiercely brainy Molly Bloom (Chastain) puts off law school and accidentally ends up running a high-stakes poker game for her boss Dean (Strong), attended by Hollywood's rich and famous. Betrayed by Dean, she takes over the game herself, moving to New York, where it becomes even bigger. But she becomes addicted to drugs to keep everything going. And when she writes a book about her experiences, she finds herself caught between the FBI and the Russian mob. So she turns to lawyer Charlie (Elba) for help.
Sorkin tells Molly's story out of sequence, spinning around in time to use extensive narrated chunks of her book to add back-story before eventually settling in for the FBI case. But at the centre of everything are Molly's daddy issues, as her demanding father (a terrific Costner) haunts her every move. Oddly, this is the only genuine relationship depicted in Molly's life. She has professional colleagues but no friends and no romantic relationships, which makes her seem only half depicted on-screen.
Even so, Chastain is a force of nature in the role, chomping on Sorkin's pithy dialog with steel-eyed relish. It's a lot of fun listening to such elaborate wordplay, even when it comes from virtually all of the characters. Elba is excellent opposite her. And the film is packed with hilarious side roles that add colour to each scene, including an odd assortment of poker players and gangsters. Scene-stealers include O'Dowd as a drunken charmer, James as a bad gambler and Greene as the seen-it-all judge.
Yet while the father-daughter scenes at least offer a sense of emotional catharsis, the film still feels oddly lacking in substance. The story is genuinely amazing, full of fascinating twists, but it never resonates on a larger scale, perhaps because of Bloom's general reluctance to be properly open about her experiences. She lets us see what she wants us to see, and while pretending to bare her soul actually keeps it hidden. It's a ripping tale, but it leaves us wanting the whole truth.
|R E A D E R R E V I E W S|
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© 2017 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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