Good Golly, “Molly’s Game”

Jessica Chastain. She is an actress who masterfully portrays Molly Brown in the 2017 gambling movie, “Molly’s Game”, which I queued up to record last night. I use “masterfully” as a term of my own choosing based on my own bias. Do I rank it among the “Godfather” Pacino performances? No. Certainly not; However, her ability to pull me through a lazy Sunday morning with grace, energy, and talent when I initially expected inelegance, lethargy, and clumsiness was nothing short of masterful.

She had some help to tilt my bias. The subject matter – Texas Hold’em – is in my wheelhouse. I love the game. Also, to quote one of the most famous holiday tunes, “Oh, the weather outside is…” (you know the rest..). I am currently in a lone, solitary state with no interruptions. Not wanting to do anything else, but needing to do other pressing matters, I must not do anything BUT watch a movie (or two, or three). It’s still a holiday weekend. On and on…. Oh, and did I mention Jessica is kinda good looking? That helps, too.

Press play. (pause)

This is where writing a blog about a movie gets a bit tricky. I don’t want to be a plot problem in reverse. How do I, a non-professional movie non-reviewer/blogger, discuss my feelings about a movie without disclosing any specific, juicy details? There is a certain irony in just asking last question based on a main platform in the defense Molly, herself, unshakably retains. Her honor is her name. Neither my honor is at stake, nor life is over as we know it if a sub-plot is ruined via an innocent blog, but I wouldn’t want it to happen, regardless. That said, a tightrope walk begins. It is a gambling movie, however, and risks must be endeavored.

Let me begin with a film synopsis. Credit here given to http://www.imdb.com: “The true story of Molly Bloom, a beautiful, young, Olympic-class skier who ran the world’s most exclusive high-stakes poker game for a decade before being arrested in the middle of the night by 17 FBI agents wielding automatic weapons. Her players included Hollywood royalty, sports stars, business titans and finally, unbeknownst to her, the Russian mob. Her only ally was her criminal defense lawyer Charlie Jaffey, who learned there was much more to Molly than the tabloids led people to believe.”

This is, pretty much, the summary I read when deciding to record. Two words, “beautiful” and “poker”, instantly led me to push record…similar to addictive smells of cinnamon rolls and chocolate lead me to being ten pounds overweight. The allure – I am so proud to say – I satisfied without any apologies to possible plot spoilages.

Molly wears a lot of sexy dresses in the film. Sparkley, spaghetti-strap, red, blue, black laced barely covering, classy one piece attractively worn numbers designed to lure the wealthiest of players. That’s part of her inside game….(and also one of the longest sentences I’ve written in a blog.) She works on the game inside the game, does it remarkably well, and is rewarded with increasing financial results. Molly vs. Smarts, vs. Instinct, vs. Knowledge, vs. Bad Luck, vs. Family are the fight cards she draws consistently but survives. “Problem = Opportunity” seems to be her mantra. She’s a fighter.

Greed is the left hook she never saw coming and, had she even the good fortune to see it, her life had no defense against it. No sexy dress or connection to power could save her. After years of eluding fate’s inevitable, concluding punch to the gut, Molly reached the final bell. All the cards were on the table. With options all used up, she’s arrested by the FBI… and so began her story as I eagerly shushed comfortably backward on the sofa under the lonely, warm, brown throw.

I was “pot committed” as she began her quest into the belly of the poker whale. What is the path for a highly competitive, world class skier to a poker game-runner? The highly avoidable pun here is … I guess it was unavoidably all downhill for her, right? The answer lay ahead in the movie. Thus, the hook. I had to know. Highly attractive woman, poker, allure, inevitable failure, … wheelhouse.

OK. So here’s what I can say without giving too much of the movie “stuff” away.

She starts out as a secretary and soon finds out there are bigger financial rewards setting up poker games. The sticky wicket is her overbearing boss, Dean Keith, who needs his teeth kicked in by an unruly three-year old who’s having a really bad day. I figure, if Mr. Keith was just a tad bit nicer to Molly, we’d have no movie (but, I digress). Moving forward, Molly finds herself a “crowd favorite” among the regular players who tip her with increasingly larger bills because of her kind demeanor and professionalism. All the while, she is observing the game, learning, studying…

Enter player X (Michael Cera). Let’s be glad Malcom X or Mr. T were not in the movie, otherwise, we’d have an alphabet nightmare afoot. Player X provides a level 2 safety net for Molly from not-so-nice-guy Dean when she jumps from the platform of abuse. Player X decides he wants to advance to Y and Z later in the movie which puts Molly at a crossroads once again, so she ups her game. The high level Russians get involved, chips fly, rakes begin (poker term – bad, bad, idea if you host a game … means the host is taking a % of the pot. No can do… very, very, bad), drugs, sleep/wake cycle non-existent. Worlds in disarray.

Seventeen FBI agents at the ready. And there’s the back story. Conclusion? Obviously, not for me to say. If you read my blog frequently, there’s always a game-within-the-game. If there isn’t something to be gleaned from a life experience, it is moments wasted.

Molly knew what she didn’t know and built towers of knowledge on the foundations of that premise. There was never a moment when I felt she was pretending. If she didn’t know, she didn’t know. Period.

Molly was exceptionally honest with herself. Knowledge, as stated above, is one dimension. Emotionally, I found her to be open and true to herself as well. For what she knew about herself most of the way though the movie, it was as real to me as if I was reading my own autobiography.

Molly’s morals and ethics could – and I emphasize “could” – be unchallenged. Honesty and knowledge aside, there are moments – especially later – when her ethics come into play (why else would the FBI be arresting her, right?). Who among us, correct?…. Degrees of severity. Not giving Molly a pass at all. I knew, based on the premise of the movie, something had to unravel.

Plots within plots. Character development. Poker games and really cool camera angles. Russians, gambling addicts, moral lessons and a well cast attorney, (Idris Elba) Charlie Jaffey, in addition to Michael Cera and Kevin Costner (who makes an awkward re-appearance later in the movie -with three questions that “should” tie up a father/daughter issue – but seems out-of-place). I won’t spoil this with the three questions. You can google if you want … they pertain to the “family” matter back story between an over-reaching/coach-father and athlete-daughter. I find those retros to be mundane and pedantic. Just me? Well, knock my chips over and call me late for supper!….

Lessons learned? Never give up. Always be learning. Know what you don’t know. Be honest with yourself. Stay moral and ethical as best you can.

“Molly’s Game” is a great movie beginning to end. Stay with it if you start it. The last five minutes are pleasurable. All the minutes previous are just as enjoyable. I was easily pulled through a lazy Sunday morning with ease by beautiful dresses, wonderful acting, a great story, a poker bias, intrigue, fascination, a partially eaten bag of pretzels, and a warm, brown throw.

All in all, not a bad few hours. Thanks, Jessica. Hopefully we can shuffle up and deal a few hands together sometime. I’d like that.

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