- Fiona Prior
Directed by Aaron Sorkin
Based on the book Molly's Game: The True Story of the 26-Year-Old Woman Behind the Most Exclusive, High-Stakes Underground Poker Game in the World by Molly Bloom
Gambling is such a loaded topic.
According to headlines, real estate guru John McGrath is carrying $16.2 million in gambling debt. That implies the downfall of the once great Australian businessman due to an out-of-control gambling addiction. Sad.
Meanwhile, Australia has banned gambling advertising from Live Sports broadcasting before 8:30 pm every night while Tasmania’s state government is significantly reducing the number of one-arm-bandits on its shores. (Perversely, the latter’s most marvelous cultural attraction MONA, was built on the wealth of MONA's high profile gambler owner David Walsh).
Like the next chapter in a soap opera, Australians await a new roll-out of headlines and gossip columns about the rise and fall and rise and fall of Australian Jamie Packer’s life and gambling industry ambitions. Included is high risk schmoozing by JP's staff that has led to their incarceration in Chinese prisons; celebrity promoters straight from Hollywood’s A-list doing remarkably little for exorbitant fees; and a very inappropriate girlfriend who left him while still sporting a huge rock on her engagement finger. More silly than sad.
With all these elements in mind – not exactly a neutral canvas – I caught Aaron Sorkin’s Molly’s Game at the movies.
Molly’s Game is based on the true story of a high-achieving small town American lass who, through accident, loses her opportunity to ski in the Olympics and redirects her competitive streak into high-stakes gambling games in North America (Molly doesn’t play, she hosts). Molly Bloom (played by the charismatic Jessica Chastain) quickly becomes the hostess with the mostess, attracting the world's biggest punters to her tables.
Molly’s game became increasingly popular as a seat at her table did not just open up a world for high-roller gaming but also created an exclusive network where business deals and tips could be transacted and exchanged as casually as cards were dealt and over-sized egos made feel like James Bond.
The sweetener that put Molly’s poker matches ahead of the competitions was the possibility of playing with the most influential men in the world – initially movie stars, who in turn attracted the moguls, politicians, and then the highest of high-wealth Wall Street billionaires.
Unfortunately for Molly, her success in exclusive, underground gambling ultimately led to the Italian mafia wanting to manage her 'debtors'; the Russian mafia money-laundering at her table (Molly's drug intake began to impair her usually scrupulous vetting processes) and eventually the scrutiny of the FBI.
This true story, and now book and film has it all; celebrity players, mafia, drugs, scary gun scenes, FBI informers and an interestingly moralising ending.
Satisfying entertainment based on nine years of a young woman's life more exciting than most fiction scripts.