Tuesday, October 23, 2018
Movies

Aaron Sorkin’s ‘Molly’s Game’ could have done with a lot less talking

After an acclaimed career writing for the stage and screen, Aaron Sorkin makes his directing debut with Molly’s Game. The result is an audiobook with pictures, a true story told almost entirely in voiceover, each character and motivation described more clearly than depicted.

The narrator is Jessica Chastain speaking for Molly Bloom, a former world-class skier running high roller poker games until the FBI barges in. The linguistic combination of gambling jargon and legalese is catnip for Sorkin, whose movie is sometimes inspiring to hear and always obvious to watch.

At times, Molly’s Game is an interesting tale of greed on the fly and gaudy manipulation. Bloom’s clients include movie stars, start-up moguls, pro athletes and foreign dignitaries, most of whom she refused to identify in interrogations or her bestselling book.

"You finished the book before the good part," says her defense attorney Charlie Jaffey, played by Idris Elba. He’s wrong as far as this movie goes.

Anything after the book involves Elba’s character and much of his material is Sorkin in fevered eloquence mode. A closed-door convo with prosecutors sounds like five minutes of polished summation to a jury. Elba is a constant mouthpiece for Sorkin’s admiration of Bloom, either declaring it or lobbing softball questions for which Chastain smashes back answers.

Molly’s Game is more entertaining in anecdotal doses, since Sorkin isn’t revealing much about Bloom other than her professionalism. She doesn’t date clients, but we see two suckers trying. She’s a capitalist with a heart, offering lessons to a bad player. Molly’s game is legit until she "rakes" pieces of the pots, then a regular (Chris O’Dowd) introduces new players from the Russian mob.

O’Dowd’s character, a drunken hanger-on, is among a handful of characters vaguely interesting to Sorkin. Another is Michael Cera as "Player X," an actor, assumed to be Tobey Maguire, whose gambling habit stretches Molly’s patience. Most effective is Bill Camp as a fine poker player personally destroyed in one hand by purely dumb luck.

There’s also a fine turn by Kevin Costner as Molly’s father, although you won’t know until late in the movie. He’s there earlier, almost negligibly, to set up a tidy piece of psychoanalysis Sorkin whipped up, that could end the movie but there’s more wordsmithery to perform. Any director not enslaved to the script could tell this story in 30 minutes less. Bet on it.

Contact Steve Persall at [email protected] or (727) 893-8365.
Follow @StevePersall.

Comments
In theaters this week: ‘Halloween,’ ‘The Oath,’ ‘The Old Man & The Gun,’ Tampa Theatre gets in spooky spirit

In theaters this week: ‘Halloween,’ ‘The Oath,’ ‘The Old Man & The Gun,’ Tampa Theatre gets in spooky spirit

Catch loads of Halloween classics at Tampa Theatre or the Halloween revival that brings Jamie Lee Curtis back after 40 years.
Published: 10/17/18
What makes the new ‘Halloween’ such a thrill is how it deviates from the original

What makes the new ‘Halloween’ such a thrill is how it deviates from the original

Decades after John Carpenter’s slasher landmark, David Gordon Green has resurrected the faceless Boogeyman of Halloween and set him loose on another Halloween night, 40 years later.
Published: 10/17/18
‘The Oath’ is a political satire that’s ripped, like a Band-Aid, from today’s headlines

‘The Oath’ is a political satire that’s ripped, like a Band-Aid, from today’s headlines

This blistering political satire may reopen a political wound that has barely had time to heal.
Published: 10/17/18
How Lady Gaga's real life mirrors - and doesn't mirror - her character in 'A Star Is Born'

How Lady Gaga's real life mirrors - and doesn't mirror - her character in 'A Star Is Born'

Maybe you watched the trailer for "A Star Is Born," and thought, huh, that's weird. We're supposed to believe that Lady Gaga lacks the confidence to sing her own songs, or that she is unattractive, and, therefore, she couldn't have a singing career? ...
Published: 10/13/18
‘First Man’ aims to make us feel, and see, what Neil Armstrong felt and saw

‘First Man’ aims to make us feel, and see, what Neil Armstrong felt and saw

There’s enough going on in director Damien Chazelle’s tense, distinctive Neil Armstrong biopic First Man to leave the climactic, inspired Apollo 11 moon landing sequence aside for a few paragraphs. So hang in there, please, and we’ll get to the damn ...
Published: 10/11/18
What’s in theaters this week: ‘First Man,’ ‘Bad Times at the El Royale,’ ‘The Hate U Give’

What’s in theaters this week: ‘First Man,’ ‘Bad Times at the El Royale,’ ‘The Hate U Give’

From Ryan Gosling as Neil Armstrong to Goosebumps 2, here’s what movies are releasing this week.
Published: 10/10/18
Updated: 10/11/18
‘The Hate U Give’ is an essential movie for 2018

‘The Hate U Give’ is an essential movie for 2018

The movie examines Black Lives Matter in a powerful, timely and deeply moving tale.
Published: 10/09/18
Need a giant glacier? An Eiffel Tower? Tampa prop master Tandova Ecenia is selling them off after 38 years

Need a giant glacier? An Eiffel Tower? Tampa prop master Tandova Ecenia is selling them off after 38 years

TAMPA — Tandova Ecenia has her choice of how to ride off into the sunset — dozens of pony-on-a-stick toys, a covered wagon, a 65-foot pirate ship replica.“I have a little of everything,” Ecenia said with a laugh.Not for lo...
Updated one month ago
Why I’m done watching movies made by bad men

Why I’m done watching movies made by bad men

There are times when I’m just done. This is one of those times.It was reported this week that Mel Gibson is co-writing and directing a reboot of The Wild Bunch, Sam Peckinpah’s revolutionary 1969 Western. Leaving aside whether we need this movie (we ...
Updated one month ago
So did Russian bots try to bring down 'Star Wars'? After furor, man who authored study says not exactly

So did Russian bots try to bring down 'Star Wars'? After furor, man who authored study says not exactly

The internet has been aflame this week over a study suggesting Russian trolls and bots had been deployed as part of a campaign to bring down one of the biggest movies in the "Star Wars" franchise."Russian trolls stoked 'Star Wars: The ...
Updated one month ago