Tuesday, August 15, 2017

"Molly's Game" Welcomes Aaron Sorkin to the World of Directing

Jessica Chastain
Over the past few years, Jessica Chastain has had an interesting career in the wake of Zero Dark Thirty. In some ways, it still feels like she's chasing the success of that performance by playing tough-as-nails women. While it can be argued that she's very good at them, roles like A Most Violent Year and Miss Sloane haven't exactly gotten her Oscar nominations. Still, every new film promises something new and exciting, especially in the wake of her recent comments at Cannes where she decried the poor choices of female roles out there. With Molly's Game, she returns to the tough-as-nails formula with the directorial debut of acclaimed writer Aaron Sorkin. While the writer is known for busy scripts, let's just hope that whatever this movie is is a little bit more focused than what the trailer provides, even Chastain having a promising and seductive role.

There's always something interesting to be said for well known talents jumping from any field into the director's chair of a movie. For Sorkin, this seems like a long time coming. He has written such gripping stories as A Few Good Men, The Social Network, and the underrated Steve Jobs. It's true that he is maybe a bit too repetitive to be one of the most adept writers out there, but his finest prose works as some of the best performance material out there. It makes you wonder what he can do with full control over his material. In some ways, it makes me nervous, because I really liked how he balanced his style with a director's visual approach. I wouldn't remove Rob Reiner, David Fincher, or Danny Boyle from their positions. In fact, they're what balance out the language of the script.

The biggest worry is probably that Sorkin doesn't have a certain focus when writing scripts. His most famous rule is that he doesn't write stage directions unless necessary. With that in mind, he may be able to block his shots to his liking, but I also worry that it will just make any given scene feel a bit rambling and unable to land. While I love his cinematic work, his TV work has been more problematic with the controversial The Newsroom, which makes one wonder what would happen if he got too much control of his work. Would he manage to balance everything that he wants without going too saccharine? 

The only real benefit is that he looks to be working outside of his frustrated male protagonist trope with Molly's Game. He actually is focusing on a woman's struggle in a man's world, and Chastain could be an excellent choice if the script works. I think that this may not be the greatest revelation in writer-turned-director culture, but it could lead to something wholly unique and, probably, self-indulgent. I don't know, but it's hard to pass up a legend doing something new to bring his own vision to the screen.

Check out the trailer below:

It looks okay. Here's the plot description according to IMDb:
The true story of an Olympic-class skier who ran the world's most exclusive high-stakes poker game and became an FBI target. Her players included movie stars, business titans and unbeknownst to her, the Russian mob.
If anything, the trailer's issue is that it presents so much information at once that it can't help but feel a bit busy. As an introduction as to what Molly's Game would be, it shows plenty of what makes it intriguing. There's Chastain's cryptic performance delivering Sorkin dialogue. However, there's celebrity cameos and very odd espionage moments that probably work in grander context. Here, it presents what feels like too much for a film that could actually be good. I admit that this doesn't quite sell me on it just yet, but hopefully future trailers will learn from this and cut back on unnecessary additional information. Just knowing that Chastain will be in trouble is enough to get us in the door. It doesn't need the Michael Cera cameo. Not yet anyways. 

It also helps that it manages to feel like a Sorkin movie without playing into any of the tropes. It is an ensemble cast given interesting little quirks. I am sure that this movie will have some benefit from being part of such a familiar writer's body of work. However, I do know that sometimes these things go wrong quickly, especially for the more ambitious artists. While I expect Chastain to deliver another great performance, I'm more curious to know if Sorkin has what it takes to elevate his own material into a visual exercise that is actually interesting enough to warrant signing himself on as director.

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