Movie Matinee Presents a Shocking True Story


There are few films that really explore the world of high-stakes gambling with conviction and perspective, and fewer that feature a strong female calling the shots.

Palisades Branch Library has indeed chosen a rarity for its 1 p.m. Saturday Movie Matinee on June 9: “Molly’s Game.” It’s the directorial debut of prolific Hollywood screenwriter Aaron Sorkin. (He’s responsible for giving us “The West Wing” and won the Oscar for “The Social Network” screenplay.) The film stars Jessica Chastain as Molly Bloom, an ambitious Olympic skier who transitioned into hosting elite underground poker tournaments in fancy hotel rooms for the biggest celebrities, socialites and business moguls—until she was investigated by the FBI and charged with operating an illegal operation.

Her career came crumbling down. At 34 years old, she faced 10 years in prison, a wad of massive fines and a defective reputation. Yet, with the expert legal representation of James Walden, Bloom managed to plead guilty to a lesser charge and stay out of prison at least.

Of course, she wrote a book about her ordeal: “Molly’s Game: The True Story of the 26-Year-Old Woman Behind the Most Exclusive, High-Stakes Underground Poker Game in the World.” Sorkin based the film on her material.

Idris Elba plays Bloom’s lawyer, though he is not based on a real figure. Among the poker players is Michael Cera playing a cruel, manipulative jerk, based on a famed but now-fading baby-faced superstar, who treats his fellow-players like cattle leading them to the slaughter.

The film was nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay at the 2018 Academy Awards. It received numerous other nominations at worldwide festivals. Reviews were generally favorable, with many critics praising Chastain’s performance and Sorkin’s dizzying, fast-paced interpretation of such unique events. Then there’s the dialogue that fires at rapid-speed on all cylinders—Sorkin fans will relish his signature style.

“Molly’s Game” is not a relaxing movie-going experience, however it provides the kind of participation that challenges one to sit upright in an engaged fashion, perhaps a little uneasy, before hooking them on the complexity and fierceness of Molly Bloom and her unapologetic behavior.