Molly’s Game

This Ticket Stub Love review was originally posted on Aimee J’s website as part of a Film Friday segment. Check out my other Film Friday reviews for more inspirational/motivational movie recommendations. 

Now I don’t know too much about poker. Actually I know nothing about poker. I have always wanted to learn for years, but sadly my card playing skills are showcased best at Go Fish only. However, leave it to masterclass writer Aaron Sorkin to get me fully invested in a movie about a game I know nothing about. Only thing better: it’s all based on a true story.

Aaron Sorkin’s directorial debut Molly’s Game is based on the memoir of the same name by Molly Bloom (played by Jessica Chastain), a former Olympic class skier who single-handedly built an underground poker empire over the course of ten years. Bloom’s exclusive high-stakes poker game saw the likes of Hollywood celebrities, business tycoons, athletes, and even the Russian Mob all sit at her table. When Bloom becomes a target in an FBI investigation, however, her empire comes crashing down with her only ally in her criminal defense lawyer (played by Idris Elba).

Now I know what you might be thinking, how is Molly’s Game qualifying as an inspirational movie for this week’s Film Friday? Molly Bloom does not exactly have the kind of success story worth admiring on the surface. She, unknowingly, got involved with the Russian mob, was arrested by the FBI and faced federal charges, and ran an underground game mixed with gambling, drugs, and trouble. However, similarly to how the movie portrays Molly Bloom’s character, there is so much more underneath the surface. Molly Bloom was an exceptionally talented and bright woman. Before an injury, she was an Olympic qualifying skier. She received an above average Harvard law school LSAT score. Most importantly, she was a woman who became successful in a man’s world. Bloom was the only one of her kind in the underground world of exclusive poker games, and though she experienced great losses, she always managed to pick herself back up and start over again. Even when all the odds were against her, Bloom still had the drive to make herself successful. In her federal court proceedings, Bloom kept her integrity above all else and learned from the mistakes she had made. If that isn’t a woman worth admiring, then I don’t know what is.

Aaron Sorkin is a legendary screenwriter, with such credits under his belt such as The West Wing, A Few Good Men, The Social Network, and Steve Jobs. The script for Molly’s Game is of course fantastic, with his trademark rapid fire dialogue practically bouncing off the screen. The characters are all so well fleshed out, with layers peeled back to reveal even more than what meets the eye. The development of Molly Bloom’s poker game becomes enthralling for the audience, who begin to feel her success and share her pain. In his directorial debut, Sorkin is solid. It is a well done film with Sorkin calling the shots and results paying off immensely.

Probably the strongest hold the film has is in its lead actors. Jessica Chastain is absolutely amazing, in what I would call a career best performance. She is transformed into Molly Bloom, from the cocktail waitress to the ruler of the world’s most exclusive poker game to a daughter who still has issues with her father. Right down to Molly Bloom’s voice, Chastain dominates the role and showcases both her strength and vulnerability in playing such a powerful yet conflicted woman. Her on-screen chemistry with Idris Elba is fantastic. Any scenes the two have together are instantly electrified.

My only complaint of the film would be the length, as it felt a little long towards the end. I still want to rewatch the film though, just to absorb everything and appreciate better the dialogue and story. Some poker details and plot points were lost on me so I think it warrants a second viewing. Molly’s Game is a movie worth watching. Molly Bloom’s incredible true story is brought to the screen justly by Aaron Sorkin, and Jessica Chastain’s powerhouse performance only makes it better.

On the Ticket Stub Love scale, I give Molly’s Game 4 out of 5 stars.

Director: Aaron Sorkin

Cast: Jessica Chastain, Idris Elba, Kevin Costner, Michael Cera, Brian d’Arcy James, Bill Camp, Chris O’Dowd

Run Time: 2 hrs 20 min, Rated R

Year: 2017

image from: http://www.impawards.com/2017/mollys_game.html

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Coco

Trailers can be a blessing and a curse. They’re personally my favorite part of going to the theater, but sometimes they give away too much, or too little in some cases. Usually a trailer is what ropes my interest in a particular film and I rely on them, maybe a little too much, for deciding what I should try to check out in the future. I have to tell you, when I got a first look at Pixar’s newest film Coco over the summer, I was not interested at all, which is really surprising actually as I usually have so much faith in Pixar. For some unfathomable reason, I had no desire to go see Coco when it was released. However praise from critics and friends who went to see it convinced me to change my mind and buy myself a ticket. Never have I been so happy to be wrong about a film!

Coco follows music-loving Miguel, who accidentally enters the Land of the Dead and seeks the help of his great-great-grandfather in order to return back to his family among the living.

Coco is Pixar’s best film since Inside Out. For a studio that has heavily focused on sequels in recent years, Coco is a proud return to form to the originality and talent that has made Pixar so beloved to many generations. First of all the animation is simply gorgeous. Once Miguel crosses the intricately detailed bridge of marigolds to the Land of Dead, a magnificent palette of vibrant hues awaits with towering shots of an alternate land that simply took my breath away. I cannot stress enough how visually gorgeous of a film Coco is. The details in every single animation are so well placed and thoughtfully created; it is evident the immense work put into the film.

Perhaps the true reason I praise Coco is its story. Incorporating Mexico and the Day of the Dead holiday into the film allows the filmmakers to fully immerse the viewer and truly celebrate the rich culture. The film is not just about Miguel entering the Land of the Dead and trying to find his way out. It is about a boy with a deep love and talent for music, who has to confront his family’s ancestral ban on all things music. Miguel’s passion is so palpable, but so are his struggles to connect with his beloved family and figure out who he really is. It is an incredible journey for a 12-year-old boy, but one that many viewers can find a piece of themselves in. Miguel’s journey helps him not only understand his family better, but also realize his true gifts as well.

Besides from Miguel’s journey of self-discovery, the film places an incredible emphasis on family, and its warmth is inescapable. With its beautifully crafted story, I found myself having to repress my sobs (I’m actually not kidding this movie made me want to bawl). The heart the film has at its center is so great. The voice acting is excellent as well, with a breakout performance by the young Anthony Gonzalez as Miguel. Benjamin Bratt and Gael García Bernal also lend their voices and do fantastic jobs. The music in the film is worth noting as well, with great singing from the cast! “Remember Me” is an instant classic that should win the Oscar and “Un Poco Loco” is sure to be stuck in the audience’s head for the next few days. Just thinking about “Remember Me” brings back all the feels!

Coco is a film that brought out all of my emotions. With its humor and heart, the film is sure to be enjoyed by audiences of all ages. The animation is even more breathtaking on the big screen so this is a movie I would even recommend seeing in theaters if possible. Coco is the kind of film that reminds me of Pixar’s master storytelling ability and penchant to hit right at the core of self-realization and family. It is a well done film that celebrates Mexican culture, the power of music, and the importance of honoring our loved ones.

ALL IN ALL: Coco is yet another celebrated entry to Pixar’s log, with great warmth and superior animation that builds upon a story of family, music, and heart.

Coco: 5 out of 5 ticket stubs

Director: Lee Unkrich and Adrian Molina

Cast: Anthony Gonzalez, Gael García Bernal, Benjamin Bratt, Renée Victor, Alanna Ubach, Ana Ofelia Murguía, Jaime Camil

Run time: 1 hr 45 min, rated PG

Year: 2017