I know very little about poker, other than I used to play it badly in high school and college among my friends. I never understood the poker craze from about 15 years ago, when suddenly it was on TV all the time, nor could I understand in a million years the appeal of people sitting at home watching other people play cards. For hours! And listening to broadcasters analyze it.
Truly, I would’ve rather watched Newt Gingrich sing off-key nursery rhymes to children.
But I do know that poker is a very dramatic card game, and that there have been quite a few really good poker movies made (Rounders, anyone?), so I kind of figured that “Molly’s Game” would be good.
Throw in that Aaron Sorkin, who’s been way better writing movies than TV since “The West Wing” ended, was writing and directing it, and that Jessica Chastain was starring as the true-life heroine who hosted incredibly high-stakes poker games for celebrities before suffering a downfall, and “Molly’s Game” was almost certain to be great.
And it was very, very good. If you’re a Sorkin-phile like me, you’ll love the script, though it’s not quite as good as his writing on “The Social Network” or “Steve Jobs.”
If you’re not familiar with the story, Chastain (who’s in 99 percent of the scenes of this movie, truly she carries the thing) plays Molly Bloom, a former Olympic-level skier who suffers a big crash and sees her athletic dreams evaporate in an instant. She eventually moves to L.A., gets a job as a personal assistant/slave for a Hollywood jerk, then finds happiness and opportunity when he asks her to organize a poker game.
Soon Molly is taking over the weekly game, enticing big rollers and actors to play, and raking in serious cash (in real life, people like Leo DiCaprio, Ben Affleck and Tobey Maguire were regular players).
But of course Molly doesn’t stay on top forever; a combination of Maguire’s dickish-ness (played beautifully by Michael Cera) and, without giving anything away, other sinister factors take her down, with the FBI getting involved.
Chastain is sensational in “Molly’s Game,” I haven’t seen too many of her movies (I think “Zero Dark Thirty” was the first flick I watched her in, she was great in that too), but she lights up the screen here. Kevin Costner is in the movie for about five minutes, total, until a fantastic, long scene at the end, and Idris Elba (shout-out to Stringer Bell!) is great as Molly’s lawyer.
There’s a lot of poker talk in the movie but you don’t really need to understand it all; what is easy to understand is how a beautiful, connected woman who knows how to play to men’s egos and insecurities can rise up to a powerful spot in their lives.
“Molly’s Game,” like most movies, is about 20 minutes too long. But the acting is phenomenal and it’s a compelling story. Plus, the ski footage is pretty amazing, too.
Definitely a film worth seeing.
**Next up today, it’s January and while I’ve been in full college basketball mode since November, I realize not everyone else is. So in my quest to start getting y’all ready for March Madness, check out this crazy finish from the Stanford-USC men’s game on Sunday.
With the score tied at 74 and less than five seconds left, USC’s Jordan McLaughlin made a spectacular drive to the basket and then sank a twisting layup which absolutely should’ve been the game-winning hoop.
Except, Stanford still had two seconds, and Daejon Davis, and well, this happened…
**Finally today, a pretty huge political story broke Tuesday night, and no, it’s not Donald Trump admitting he doesn’t know the words to “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
Gerrymandering, that controversial practice states use to draw incredibly unfair and imbalanced district lines, so as to preserve majorities for their party, suffered another big blow. North Carolina, one of the worst gerrymander offenders, had its recent law struck down.
From this story: “A panel of three federal judges in North Carolina ruled on Tuesday that the state’s congressional map was unconstitutionally partisan, and ordered that it be re-drawn before the end of the month.
The court agreed that the map, which was originally drawn in 2011, was drawn to favor Republicans and thus violates the First Amendment, as well as the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause and the Election Clause. It’s the second time North Carolina’s congressional maps have been thrown out — in 2016, three federal judges ruled that state’s congressional districts were the result of an unconstitutional racial gerrymander.”
This is outstanding news for those of us who believe in fair elections, and fair representation. Between Wisconsin, North Carolina and Texas, those three states have been sliced and diced to death, all to favor the GOP. Of course I know the Democrats gerrymander, too, but not this blatantly.
2018 is going to be a great year, and this is one terrific start.