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‘Molly’s Game’, based on Molly Bloom’s instructively titled memoir: ‘Molly’s Game: from Hollywood’s Elite to Wall Street’s Billionaire Boys Club, My High Stakes Adventure in the World of Underground Poker’ is set for cinema release on the 22nd November this year.

Expectations are high, very high, for this film will be the directorial debut of Aaron Sorkin, whose screenwriting has earned him a preeminent position in Hollywood.  What his scripts for ‘The Social Network’ and ‘Steve Jobs’ demonstrated is that it’s not just absorbing dialogue that he’s good at but that in a deft and unobtrusive way the scripts function as devices of deconstruction, incisive social commentary.  When asked what had attracted him to this material he said:

“It isn’t often you come across a story that is both cool and has a lot of heart and this one does.”

This ‘cool’ story concerns the rise and fall of an Olympic class skier who switched her skis for a deck of cards and went on to run exclusive high stakes poker games for the stars, think Hollywood elite, before falling foul of the Russian mob and the FBI.  According to Jessica Chastain, who plays the female protagonist, Sorkin’s interest in the material centres on the journey of a woman through a macho world.

“I like that the film explores female power and what it means in society.”

We’ve seen Ghostbusters get a female, if not feminist, makeover, now it’s the turn of that most male dominated of all film genres, the casino movie.  The roll call of honour all features films with charismatic male leads and peripheral female eye candy.  Steve McQueen and Edward G Robinson in ‘The Cincinnati Kid’, Redford and Newman in ‘The Sting’, Matt Damon and Edward Norton in the cult classic ‘Rounders’.  Even the most recent attempt to reinvigorate the genre by introducing on-line gambling into the narrative, the widely derided ‘Runner Runner’, featured male leads Justin Timberlake and Ben Affleck. So, could ‘Molly’s Game’ be the first film with a female lead to join the list of greatest gambling films of all time?  Whereas once upon a time it was only the guys who were interested in gambling, now there are plenty of women out there with a thirst for five card stud.

There’s definitely an audience for this film, even though it may not be the traditional male one but the big question is will a great writer make a great director? Sorkin himself is ingenuous on the subject:

“I’ve spent hundreds of hours standing next to some of the most talented directors of all time. Hopefully a little bit of it rubbed off on me, I had no problems stealing from them.”

What we won’t get is a gossip movie, reports suggest that Sorkin has been concerned to completely bury the identities of Hollywood celebrities who were involved in the real-life events.  Though I’m sure they’ll be plenty of helpful websites which will put you right on that score, if that’s where your interest lies. What I’m anticipating is an intelligent film, powered by Sorkin’s characteristic narrative drive and a long overdue change of perspective for a genre that’s grown weary from just too many games.

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