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:

Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom

Last week I was invited to attend a private screening of Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom. It definitely had a much bigger impact on me since Nelson Mandela had passed away on December 5th. Despite the mixed reviews, I enjoyed the film though I thought it was the actors who mainly held it up.

Starring Idris Elba as the title character and Naomie Harris as his second-wife Winnie, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom is a biographical film that chronicles the early life of Nelson Mandela as well as his education, 27 years in prison during the anti-apartheid movement, and eventual inauguration as the first democratically elected president of South Africa.

Let me start off with the cast. I thought Idris Elba was fantastic as Mandela and I’m glad he was nominated for a Golden Globe for his performance. Let’s be frank, he doesn’t look much like Mandela at all, at least not as much as Morgan Freeman. However, it is Mandela’s embodiment and spirit that he captured which made him so believable, not to mention his impressive mastery of a South African accent. His makeup used to portray his gradual aging was not exactly the best though. Naomie Harris also gave a great and gritty performance as Winnie Madikizela-Mandela and she definitely portrayed her character’s development over the years very accurately. This was emphasized as well by Elba who perfectly portrayed his appall  to what her anger had led her to become.

Unfortunately, I thought the film felt too rushed at times and tried to cram as much of Nelson Mandela’s life into a nice little package. However, trying to include practically all of the major life events of such a legendary man leads to a crowded film that feels long and doesn’t do much justice to the important events depicted. The film clocks in at 139 minutes, which is not too bad, but it makes the fatal flaw of allowing the audience to realize how long it is. It could have ended in several places earlier than it did because I found myself often thinking that it was going to end, but then the film would suddenly turn to another quick scene. Also this is random, but I did not think the frequent scenes in the beginning that showed Mandela’s womanizing ways were really necessary.

Though there were some flaws, the film is very moving. I had goosebumps in several scenes, mainly due to the performances but also to the realization that the events actually happened. The added bits of humor here and there also made a huge difference in several intense scenes. If anything, and I know I already mentioned the length of the film, more time could have been spent on some background of apartheid since the film simply dives right into it. I recommend the film, especially to those who do not know much about the life of Nelson Mandela; however, it might not be worth seeing in theaters.

ALL IN ALL: Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom is a powerful film with moving performances from its two leads, but it fails in trying to cram as much as possible about the life of a legendary man.

Rated PG-13, 139 minutes