Aaron Sorkin's debut as a film director, after a long career as a writer as well as the creator of several good TV series (including my favorite, Sports Night). Sorkin indulges too often in soapbox speechifying, but he usually gets away with it because his dialogue is so much fun. There's no mistaking Molly's Game as anything other than a Sorkin film, and his directing doesn't deflect from that ... he does a good job of getting out of the way of the dialogue. He also shows a nice touch with actors ... Jessica Chastain and Idris Elba don't need Aaron Sorkin's help to give us great performances, but again, Sorkin knows enough to give his stars solid dialogue and then letting them show their stuff.
"Showing their stuff" takes on special significance for Chastain as Molly Bloom (yep, it's her real name ... Molly's Game is yet another "based on a true story" picture). Chastain, with two Oscar nominations and a Golden Globe (she received a Globe nomination for this film) is generally considered as an actress first and foremost. Her red-haired looks are striking, but they don't take over the parts she plays. But Molly Bloom, who ran poker games, had a particular look for work, and costume designed Susan Lyall knew how to exploit that look. Molly changes costumes in what feels like every scene involving poker games, and a key element in all of those outfits is cleavage. Chastain has said that the response to this aspect of her performance surprised her, stating about comments on a YouTube video of the film's trailer, "I’ve never done a movie where people have been talking about my body like that." It's all subjective ... my wife said she wouldn't have noticed if I hadn't brought it up. But the way Molly is presented, you start thinking Chastain's cleavage should have gotten a mention in the credits.
The poker games in the movie reminded me of the chess in The Queen's Gambit. Sorkin takes something that isn't inherently interesting on the screen and makes it exciting. The legal matters surrounding Molly's life, featuring Elba as her lawyer, are as good as the rest of the film, this time reminding me of similar scenes in The Social Network, which Sorkin also wrote.
I don't want to overstate things. Molly's Game is entertaining, the acting of the leads is excellent, and what more could you ask for? Yet I never felt like I was watching a classic, or a movie I'd enjoy watching again. Still, Molly's Game is easily worth watching a first time.