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Molly's Game (2017)
Universal Studios Home Entertainment
Blu-ray Disc Released: 4/10/2018
All Ratings out of
Review by Mike Long, Posted on 4/10/2018
You know how everyone in the world knows exactly how high-stakes poker is played? Yeah, me neither, but this is something that Hollywood clearly doesn't understand. 2006's James Bond entry Casino Royale offered extensive scenes in which very complex poker was portrayed with nary an explanation. It's hard for something to be suspenseful or interesting when you don't know what the hell is happening. As the newly-released Molly's Game proves, filmmakers still haven't learned their lesson, but we may also find a movie which offers enough to make that sin forgivable.
Molly Bloom (Jessica Chastain) was well on her way to being an Olympic skier, when she was sidelined by an injury. Moving to Los Angeles before beginning law school, her job as an assistant to Dean Keith (Jeremy Strong), soon turned into her hosting his weekly poker game, which was attended by Hollywood heavyweights. Enjoying the lavish tips Molly received from these players, Molly gave herself a makeover, became an expert on poker, and then began running the game herself. This lead to a lifestyle of celebrities, drugs, and sudden federal charges. Molly finds herself in the office of lawyer Charlie Jaffey (Idris Elba) determined to once again become the motivated individual that her father (Kevin Costner) had taught her to be and win her case.
Based on the real-life story of Molly Bloom, Molly's Game is an interesting character study of someone who was bred to be a champion (her brothers were also athletes, with one playing for the Philadelphia Eagles). When Molly's Olympics dreams were crushed, she thought that she could simply take some time off after college. But, her natural instincts to not only win, but dominate, took over and she soon became the master of private poker games, first in Los Angeles and then in New York. Even after she is arrested and her assets frozen, a time when she should be defeated, Molly is determined to find the best lawyer and outdo her accusers. Jessica Chastain essays this role masterfully (although she looks nothing like the real-life Bloom), and it's very easy to buy her as the woman with the never-say-die attitude. In fact, it's the few scenes where Molly does show vulnerability where Chastain's performance reveals its layers.
Oscar-winning Writer Aaron Sorkin (who has apparently now devoted his life to making biopics) not only handles the screenplay here, but he also makes his directorial debut as well. I have not read Bloom's autobiography, so I don't know how the story is structured there, but Sorkin has opted to tell much of the tale in flashback, as Molly and Charlie prepare her defense. This allows him to juxtapose the somewhat pessimistic Molly with the high-roller which she had been. It also allows for interjections of moments with Molly and her father, showing their turbulent relationship. In all, Molly's Game show the arc of someone whose life represent a myriad of highs and lows. Other than the fact that the movie is a bit too long at nearly 2 1/2 hours, the only major problem with the story is that Sorkin assumes that we know poker. Ironically, in the narration, Molly mentions the terms which she had to research, but we don't get the pleasure of learning their meaning. Does this matter? In fact, it does. The term "rake" is thrown around a lot in the beginning without being defined, and there are two scenes involving poker games which are supposed to be suspenseful, but if you don't know poker, they will seem pointless.
The poker scenes and the drawn-out length aside, Molly's Game is one of the more interesting biopics which I've seen recently, which is saying a lot, as Oscar season seems to be nothing but true stories these days. Not only does the film deliver a very interesting character arc, it does so with a main character who is deeply flawed due to her pursuit for perfection. The movie takes us inside of an exclusive world and shows that wealth can come with a high price. And, if nothing else, the movie will make you want to do some research of your own to try and figure out who some of the other real-life characters are!
Molly's Game deals from the bottom (whatever that means) on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Universal Studios Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 34 Mbps. The image is very sharp and clear, showing no overt grain and no defects from the source materials. The colors look very good and the image is never overly dark or bright. The level of detail is very good and the picture displays a nice amount of depth. The film contains a few scenes which take place in the snow, and they look good -- this is a nice way to measure the balance of an image. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 track which runs at an 48 kHz and an average of 4.3 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The film's opening gives us an idea of the track's power, as the skiing scene delivers strong subwoofer and surround effects. We also get some nicely-tailored effects during the poker games, and the score never overpowers the actors.
The lone bonus feature on the Molly's Game Blu-ray Disc is "Building an Empire" (3 minutes). This brief featurette is basically an EPK, playing like an extended trailer with brief comments from Sorkin, Chastain, Producer Mark Gordon, and the real Molly Bloom.
Review Copyright 2018 by Mike Long