Wordy but entertaining.
You can never accuse Aaron Sorkin of skimping on his words. Sorkin is of course the award-winning writer of “The West Wing” but on the big screen he has also written many classics: “A Few Good Men”; “The Social Network” and “Steve Jobs” for example. Here he also makes his directorial debut in a movie about the true-life turbulent career of Olympic wannabe skier Molly Bloom.
Bloom is played by Jessica Chastain, from films such as “Zero Dark Thirty” and “Miss Sloane” (one of my films of the year last year). Chastain’s roles as an actress are often quite cold and calculating, as suits her demeanour. As such her characters are not often easy to warm to in movies (and as such, my wife is not a fan).
Here as Molly Bloom she is as equally driven as in “Miss Sloane“, but the drive is learned from her father (Kevin Costner), bullying her to be the best she can be at skiing in a highly competitive family. Forced out of the skiing business (for reasons I won’t spoil), she takes a “gap year” from law school that turns into a “gap life” after she falls into the slightly shady business of running poker nights for LA’s rich elite. It’s here that Chastain’s Bloom is able to show a gentler and more compassionate side, trying to talk some of her clients (who invariably fall in love with her) off the ledge of their gambling addiction.
Sorkin’s script (based on Molly’s own autobiography, I should add) does a really nice job of cutting backwards and forwards through Molly’s timeline to drill into motivations and her mental state, and in doing so he pulls out an award-winning (or at least Golden-Globe award-nominating) performance from Chastain in the process. Also very effective though is Kevin Costner (“Hidden Figures“, “Man of Steel“), who is quietly building an impressive portfolio of supporting actor roles. Here he rather dials in his “tough and aloof guy” performance until the park bench scene (below) where he surprises in a good way.
It’s also a blessed relief to find a decent vehicle to showcase the undoubted talents of Britain’s Idris Elba – an actor who has been woefully served by rubbish such as “Bastille Day“, rather lame sequels like “Star Trek: Beyond” or minor roles such as in “Thor: Ragnarok“. Here he can really get his teeth into the role of Molly’s lawyer, with a multi-layered character that reveals a little – but not too much of – his back-story to leave you with intriguing questions.
So it’s a good film, but an intelligent watch that mandates your attention. The script is sufficiently dense and wordy that it requires significant concentration: this is not a “park your brain at the door” type of ‘Michael Bay film’. (As such, while it remains a recommended watch, I’m not sure it would be one that would necessarily make my DVD list for repeat watchings).
But again, I must comment on what an amazing year this is turning out to be for women in film. Less #Me-too and more #She-do! Once again, here is a movie where a confident woman is firmly in the driving seat, and while powerful men try to bring her down, it is not them that succeeds. (The studio bill for talent in the past year must be a LOT less than it was the year before! #don’tshootme #topicalhumour #CarrieGracey). #TimesUp.
Fad Rating: FFFf.