Jan 2, 2018

Review: MOLLY'S GAME (dir. Sorkin)

 'Chastain is in her element. Dressed in low-cut designer dresses, cleavage on full display, but refusing all the propositions that come her way, she  saunters around her high-end gambling den, elusive and unattainable, hand-picking the guests, recruiting fresh meat to throw to sharks like   “Player X”, a movie star who lives for the kill:  “I don’t like playing poker , I like destroying lives.” That he is played by Michael Cera allows for some some sly subversion of Cera’s pencil-necked beta-male  image. In real life it was Tobey Maguire — further accompanied by Leonardo Di Caprio, Ben Affleck and, on occasion, Matt Damon — but Sorkin, like Bloom herself, has mastered the art of cloaking names with a seductive flutter. We hear talk of Saudi Princes and hedge-fund billionaires, find out good players can lose to bad ones if they don’t yet know how bad they are, one pro (Bill Camp) losing everything in the course of a game lasting three days. “Go home,” Molly tells him.  I’m not sure we ever figure her out. In his debut as director, Sorkin shows a slight inability to let his performances breathe or deepen. Betrayed a second time, Molly  says in voiceover, “depression and anger gave way to blinding rage at my  powerlessness over the unfair whims of men” the narration stealing what it should be an actress’s job to show. As with many of her roles, Chastain burns with a cool blue flame, a player who refuses to be played or drawn into the compromise of intimacy, the closest we get to an intimate relationship her strained relationship with her psychotherapist father (Kevin Costner) who turns up in a climactic scene full of gimcrack Freudianism  — “I’m going to give you some answers” he says — that nevertheless pulls off a little magic. Sorkin can pull rabbits out of hats, but it’s interesting to compare Chastain’s diamond-cut integrity with the more pliable populism of someone like, say, Julia Roberts. Chastain may not want to be that kind of star, although if you’re looking for the reason audiences may not have yet fully embraced her, here it is. Like Dietrich before her, she seduces the camera, but refuses to be seduced by it, breaking the age-old compact that connects a performer’s sexuality and the screen. It’s fascinating stand-off. I can’t wait to find out how it turns out.' — from my Sunday Times review


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