POKER

Molly’s game review: A movie about poker that’s not really about poker

TAGs: Jessica Chastain, Molly’s Game, poker movie

Lee Davy spends a lazy Thursday afternoon in the cinema watching Aaron Sorkin’s Molly’s Game and explains why he believes it’s the greatest movie about poker that’s not really about poker.

I had a statement prepared.

It wasn’t verbal. The weapons inside my mouth crushed between hard to reach molars. Crisps. It seems the crunch is too much for the woman sitting in front of me.

A couple shuffles in front of her.

“Don’t sit there!”

One half of the couple turns around and glares at her.Molly’s Game Review: a movie about poker that’s not really about poker

“I wasn’t going to!”

“Crunch.”

Another passive-aggressive sideways glance designed to tell me to stop. One more and I swear I’m going to crunch an inch from the ladies face.

I look around the cinema and it’s full of old people. So, this is what old people do at 2 pm on a Thursday afternoon. They huddle together to watch Molly’s Game. Or have the men dragged them along for the ride so they can watch a film about poker and stare at Jessica Chastain’s ample cleavage.

I think it’s the latter, but then again, I am a man.

“Crunch.”

I never read the book. The title. The face. The gloss. It all seemed a tad trashy to me. I’ve read plenty of books and then watched the movie. I’ve never watched a movie and then read the book. I am about to break that habit.

Jessica Chastain did to Molly Bloom what Gal Gadot did for Wonder Woman. The #MeToo campaign poster girl. Matriarchy v Patriarchy. At times, Chastain’s portrayal of Bloom was as white as the snow she crashed and burned on, a slight irritant, but not enough for me to drop a star.

When Bloom refused to spill her guts in the book she gave Aaron Sorkin a headache. How could he make a film about a poker game? He didn’t. In making the movie about Bloom, he was able to steer the ship into the choppy waters of misogyny, and there are a lot of people still flapping around waiting for that particular tide to go out.

From her Dad (Larry Bloom, played brilliantly by Kevin Costner) to every player who took a seat in her game, Sorkin used poker as a way of demonstrating the divide between men and women, and the struggle that women face in this daily grind, we call life. And in doing so, he created hope.

The scenes between Idris Elba (Bloom’s lawyer, Charlie Jaffey) and Chastain were brilliant. The dialogue was as swift and ruthless as a blade carrying out a circumcision. Elba’s speech and Chastain’s look (at last, a man who sees me) during the scene with the opposition, was enough to bring a tear to my eye.

There was more to come.

As Larry Bloom, Costner didn’t have much to do, but he did it brilliantly. The back and fore sarcastic wit between the pair was fabulous. The way Chastain stood her ground in a family heavily doused with testosterone was inspiring.

As a misunderstood father myself, I found the park bench scene heart-wrenching stuff. I’m not sure if there is a full moon tonight, but the tear that was in my eye turned into a full-on gush. Any pent up anger you may have felt for Costner disappeared at that moment.

“Trying to comprehend how much I love you would be like trying to visualise the size of the universe.” – Kevin Costner.

I thought the poker terminology and the description of hands were spot on. Basic research has always been lacking when someone introduces a poker scene in Hollywood, but these were bang on.

The only part of the movie I didn’t like was the pace of the switch into the storyline about Bloom’s drug use. It was too abrupt, unnecessary, and another loose end that Sorkin seemed to tie up into a bow that looked a little too neat and tidy to my liking.

Then again, as Elba said so beautifully, “all she is guilty of is running a poker game.”

A poker game.

There is only one movie about poker that is worth watching. I won’t insult your intelligence by naming it. Many people have tried to emulate its success. They have all failed.

Sorkin succeeds, but then again, it’s hard to call this a movie about poker. In the beginning, there was smugness in my crunching. I was the only person in the theatre who has interviewed the types of people who likely took a seat in one of Bloom’s games. I certainly wasn’t the only man in the theatre who at one point in his life thought he was superior to women.

When the lights came up, I crumpled my empty crisp bags and put them in my rucksack. The woman in front of me turned, looked and…smiled. I returned the favour. There are 24 women in Starbucks as I write this. I wonder how many of them stick rigidly to the cum shot style societal conditioning of the world? Most of them, I imagine. It makes me sad.

The world needs more female role models, and Molly’s Game shows they don’t need to come armed with a magic rope that makes men tell the truth. All you need is a story, and the right person to tell it.

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