Script consultant UK looks back at Molly’s Game (2017)

Aaron Sorkin is one of the world’s best known scriptwriters.  He has a distinctive staccato style and the film’s he’s written are full of clever (and sometimes non-stop) talk.

I love ‘Moneyball’, and Sorkin was the perfect writer for that project, which despite being a sports film, was actually all about the chats, discussions and arguments that go on behind the scenes in a sporting management team.  ‘The Trial of the Chicago 7’ was a recent success for him, but it left me cold, but impressed again by his abilities.

Molly’s Game is a film he wrote and directed, and it has a very strong woman as the central character.  It’s based on a true story (which is sometimes frustrating) but it has a huge amount of heart, and takes time (well over two hours) to get the story as straight as it can be.

The title character is played with verve by Jessica Chastain, and Idris Elba turns in one of his better performances as Molly’s reluctant lawyer.  Kevin Costner is also good in a smaller but pivotal role as Molly’s father, a failed , bitter figure who Molly pushed away many years previously.

The story is actually about Poker, as Molly through what seems like a series of random choices ends up running various illegal poker games, in hotels and bars across the USA.  The ‘big deal’ is that these games were run for the benefit of high profile celebrity players, superstar business men, and well known musicians etc.

The frustrating thing about the story, is that while it promises all kinds of gossip on the celebrities who took part in these games (some, described as gambling addicts) the film doesn’t reveal much about the personalities involved, and indeed the film is partly about Molly’s eventual reluctance to name names, and say exactly who played.

Lack of scuttlebutt aside, Molly and her lawyer develop a reluctant respect, and towards the end of the film, Molly even pleads guilty as charged, still steadfastly refusing to give in to a rigged system.

This is Jessica Chastain’s best film, and best performance, and it shows what she can do with a complex female character, who’s tougher than many of the men she comes across.

Ultimately, Sorkin does his best with a story that will always leave you wanting to know more, his style of direction leaves the conversations and talk upfront, but he doesn’t overload the viewer either, and there’s a great scene towards the end in New York, where Molly goes skating which leads to a meeting with her past.

I wasn’t a fan of ‘Steve Jobs’ or ‘The Social Network’, I admired them, but felt there wasn’t much heart.  There’s a lot of heart in ‘Molly’s Game’ even if, thanks to Molly herself, we’ll never get to hear the full story.

Matthew Cooper has been a scriptwriter for hire and UK script consultant for over 20 years. He’s written for most of the UK soaps, including writing award-winning episodes of Emmerdale, EastEnders, Hollyoaks and Family Affairs and has been BAFTA shortlisted and Royal Television Society nominated as a script writer.

Matthew won the first ever Lloyds Bank / Channel Four Film Challenge in 1993, a ground breaking competition for young scriptwriters and directors. His script ‘Family Style’ was shot and broadcast on prime time on Channel Four in the UK, the short film, starred Ewan McGregor and was directed by Justin Chadwick. 

Matthew also won the first ever Oscar Moore Screenplay award and has been placed in various competitions run by the BBC over the years. He was the youngest ever core writer on ITVs ‘Emmerdale’ and was the writer of the iconic ‘Eastenders’ episode where ‘Alfie’ told ‘Kat’ he loved her for the first time.

His UK script coverage service, Script reading service and script development service are highly sought after.

You can find some of his broadcast credits on the IMDb.

His directorial debut, the rubber reality horror thriller ‘Markham was released in 2020, his second feature film as director ‘At The Mountains Of Madness’ will be released in 2021. You can find out more about Matthew’s work as a director here.