First Look Review: Molly's Game Is a Bet That Fails to Pay Off

3 months ago
First Look Review: Molly's Game Is a Bet That Fails to Pay Off
13:05
11 Sep

Most of us have been looking forward to Molly’s Game, Aaron Sorkin’s directorial debut about an underground poker ring, with a great deal of anticipation. The prospect of having the based-on-a-true-story book by the eponymous Molly Bloom brought to life by the pensmith behind The Social Network and The West Wing seemed pretty foolproof. It’s a tale of celebrities, poker and, eventually, the Russian mob, what’s not to like. It might be, many of us thought, a new Rounders.

However, after it’s opening at the Toronto Film Festival ahead of its November release in the US, some of those hopes may have to be reigned in a bit.


Icy Reviews From The Great White North

Benjamin Lee of the Guardian gave it just two stars, saying:

“Sorkin is spellbound by his subject, fascinated by the many details of her admittedly impressive life, but the magic he clearly feels fails to translate on screen. The experience of watching Molly’s Game feels a bit like hearing a long, rambling story from someone high on something, a frantic, exhausting splurge of information that never truly justifies its existence.”

And while other reviewers have been more forgiving, they have done so with reservations. For example Peter Debruge of Variety’s review suggest that though it broadly worked he was left feeling that the story was over before it began thanks to the flashback structure which meant that:

“It’s not like her life’s in danger, just her reputation, and that’s a relatively small pot.”

But a mixed reception was not the only challenge to the film at the festival, there were also criminal shenanigans.


Across the Border

One of the other pieces of news buzzing around the Molly’s Game showing was the fact that the movie’s subject Ms. Bloom herself, struggled to even be allowed into Canada

In what is probably something of a spoiler for the film – which Sorkin emphasises is about her trial as much as about the poker games she ran – Bloom had to get a special 48-hour exemption from the Canadian government to allow her to cross the border.

The reason? Bloom had plead guilty to a Federal Crime in the United States making her a persona non grata in the land of maple syrup.

However, as is the case with all of Sorkin’s writing, it seems likely that the plot is not the point. You may buy your ticket to see Molly’s Game for the poker, but it’s gonna be the signature Sorkin dialogue that will keep you from walking out. If anything does.

With some reservations now, I’m still looking forward to seeing it.


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Jon is a freelance writer and novelist who learned to play poker after watching Rounders in year 9. He has been giving away his beer money at cards ever since. Currently he is based in Bristol where he makes sporadic donations to the occasional live tournament or drunken late night Zoom session. He ...Read more

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