MOLLY’S GAME (2017)

It breaks my heart to even think that this film lost to the disgusting “Call Me By Your Name” in the Oscar race for best-adapted screenplay. Molly’s Game is probably the most engaging film of 2017 and it is so because of the way it is written and executed. This is one of the most talkative films of last year and yet it is the talks that grab your attention. The film moves from one point to the other through dialogs, narrations, and expositions and yet it remains so breezy and intelligible that it’s hard not to love it.

Molly Bloom (Jessica Chastain) was being groomed by her father to be a champion skier and a lawyer but one near-fatal fall at the Olympic qualifiers turns her life 360 degrees and leads her on a path that would make her what the media called “Poker Queen”. She herself denied that title. This is a film that takes us on a ride through Molly’s life. Her ups and downs and how she earned a fortune and lost it all. It also takes us through her rather long and painful tussle with the FBI and other government agencies.

One has to see this film to learn how best to layout and execute a talkative film. Molly’s Game unfolds in multiple tracks. There is a flashback that takes us back to Molly’s childhood and adolescence and brings us face to face with her disagreements with her father played by Kevin Costner and how her career as a Skier blossomed and ended abruptly. There is the present time where she is being indicted under a series of charges and she is trying to first convince and then relate her complete story to her attorney played by Idris Elba so that he can defend her. And last but not the least, there is the flashback that takes us through her life as the Poker Queen successfully running games, creating myths and doing it all legally. All these tracks harmoniously intermingle at various points and make up a story that is as fresh and engaging as it is re-visitable.

Molly’s Game moves at a breakneck speed. There were two instances when the story slowed down to take a breather. Once when Molly meets her father towards the end and the two have a heart to heart discussion about their past, present, and future. The other time when the story sort of slows down a bit is when Molly is discussing her case with her attorney in the second half. The rest of it is almost breathlessly fast.

I loved this film more than any of the pictures that were nominated for the best picture Oscar. I truly feel that this film was more entertaining than any of the films nominated and since I am so big on the entertainment quotient, it easily became my movie of choice. It’s just not the entertainment. Molly’s Game effortlessly makes you a part of the tale. When the film is playing, there isn’t a slightest of chance of anyone who understands the language and likes the genre to slip away. Within the first 15 minutes of the film, the story delivers its hook which remains right there till the end.

The story kind of moves in a manner similar to Aaron Sorkin’s Steve Jobs, another film that unfolded in three parts using three product launches by Jobs as its background and dwelling more on the background drama of these launches giving us a window into Job’s life and legacy. In this film, Sorkin gives us a far better and laid out look at Molly’s life and leaves nothing to ambiguity which by the way was a great thing for this film.

Jessica Chastain has been a favorite of mine ever since Zero Dark Thirty. I loved her in Miss Sloane, another film that is very similar in feel to this film. But in this role, she knocks it out of the park. She is in almost every scene of this film and her act is so transfixing that it almost felt hypnotic. The sense of urgency, the feel of the drama and a plethora of other emotions that she brings to the table was almost overwhelming. Add to that her sly sex appeal and the fact that she has never looked this alluring and tempting and you have you an actress whose act alone can justify the entrance fee. The way she moves, the way she talks and the amount of heart she puts in the character makes this film even more affecting. It’s an obvious thing considering the fact that this is largely her talking, planning, moving and rolling players. If she was not interesting, this film would have fallen flat on its face.

A word has to be mentioned about the editing. It was very easy for the film to go haphazardly with the amount of material that it had in hands. It was also easy for the film to take a straightforward take on the tale but that would have easily reduced the thrill factor and liquidated the dramatic effects. There was also a chance of the film going overboard and turning boring by not knowing how to balance the content in hand. None of that happens here. What we get is a seminal cut of the story that is just perfect. It takes a breather atleast twice. Remains fast all throughout. Never lets off the steam and ends with a bang. Even the in-sequence editing is top notch. The drama of the games as well as the other situations is brought out wonderfully through the edits and some beautifully envisioned graphical additions.

The cinematography is beautiful. Leaving everything else aside, the manner in which the cinematographer captures Chastain as Molly is in itself good enough to take the cake. Her moods are highlighted. She is always the best version of herself. Even when she is battered and broken, there is a feeling of tragic beauty about her. When she knows that she is doing something wrong, there is a different tinz to her expressions and that too is captured wonderfully by the cinematographer. It’s not just Molly. The same can be noticed for almost all the players.

Molly’s Game to me is the perfect film to have come out of Hollywood last year. The fact that it can be watched numerous times and still retains its magic makes it one of those few films that can boast of such a trait. Chastain’s spirited act, intriguing storytelling, great cinematography and pitch-perfect editing are some of the other factors that make this film a must watch.

Rating : 5/5 (5 out of 5 Stars)

 

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