Jessica Chastain plays ‘Molly’s Game’ quite well

Movie Review

Jessica Chastain in “Molly’s Game”

It simply stood to reason that sooner or later, Aaron Sorkin would turn to directing.

One of the most renowned writers of stage and screen — for such projects as “A Few Good Men,” “The West Wing” and “The Social Network” – the award winner’s dialogue always has had a pace that confirms he’s a master of movement, whether verbal, physical or both. In fact, it’s a trademark typically acknowledged as soon as his name is mentioned.

In 2017, Sorkin made his directorial debut on “Molly’s Game,” the true story of a woman who rode herd over a very elite, very illegal gambling den. Freeform presents the film Sunday, March 14.

Molly Bloom started out with Olympic-skiing aspirations, but an injury sidelined those dreams, and she refocused herself to become the person behind the person running big-stakes poker games. Eventually, she started running her own game, and that attracted the attention of mobsters as well as FBI agents … each group having its own interest, and concern, about what she was doing.

Obviously, “Molly’s Game” needs the right person as Molly, and it surely has her in Jessica Chastain. For much of her career, she’s been a chameleon on screen. Try stacking her performance here against the one in “Zero Dark Thirty,” or just about any other she’s done, and it’s very clear how she’s become an actress for all occasions.

Kevin Costner plays her father and Idris Elba her attorney, and everyone concerned is serviced well by the Sorkin screenplay … though they might have had to do word-speed exercises beforehand. Sorkin adapted the screenplay from Bloom’s book, and it’s hard to imagine anyone familiar with his work wouldn’t expect to encounter his quick and precise style of wording.

It’s surely in evidence in “Molly’s Game,” but that’s not to say they’d necessarily be ready for it. Chastain expectedly and logically gets the lion’s share of the script to deliver, and she’s completely and unsurprisingly skillful at it. It’s fun, though, to watch such other Sorkin newbies as Costner, Elba and Chris O’Dowd (also of the television version of “Get Shorty”) keep their jaws and tongues nimble as Sorkin’s work spills out of it.

With all the solid talent that’s on hand in “Molly’s Game,” the picture’s top hands very clearly belong to its central star and a then-first-time director (now with “Lucy and Desi” in the works) who makes you wonder what took him so long to get there.

Jay Bobbin

Jay Bobbin

Jay Bobbin has decades of experience covering the television and movie businesses, winning Tribune Media Services’ Crown Jewel Award in 2008 for his performance in the company. Over those many years of interviewing and writing, he has spoken with everyone from Robert De Niro and John Travolta to Paul McCartney and Tony Bennett … from Meryl Streep and Julie Andrews to Taylor Swift and Carrie Underwood.

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