A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Molly's Game is a fact-based drama about Molly Bloom (based on her own book), whose once-promising Olympic skiing career was derailed by injury, after which she ran a high-stakes underground poker game, only to be undone by Russian gangsters. Expect lots of strong language, with uses of "f--k," "s--t" (in various permutations), and many other words. The main character is brutally beaten up in one scene; she's kicked and slammed against a wall, with bloody injuries shown. Her skiing accident is also shown, as are brief shots of spinal surgery. Bloom becomes a drug addict, abusing Adderall, Xanax, cocaine, alcohol, and more. Social drinking and smoking also are shown. Marking Aaron Sorkin's directorial debut, the film is not a total success, but it's energetic and entertaining, with a strong lead performance by Jessica Chastain.
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What's the story?
In MOLLY'S GAME, Molly Bloom (Jessica Chastain) tries to hire lawyer Charlie Jaffey (Idris Elba) to defend her against a federal lawsuit. To convince him to take her on, she tells him her story: Raised by a strict psychologist (Kevin Costner), Molly is once a very promising Olympic skier. But then her career is derailed by a freak accident. So she moves to L.A. and gets a job working for a sleazy promoter, eventually helping him run high-stakes backroom poker games -- the kind that attract movie stars like "Player X" (Michael Cera). Molly soon learns how the games work, taking home huge tips. When her boss threatens to take away her salary, she steals his contact list and starts her own game. Things fall apart when Russian mobsters become involved in the game and Molly's drug use spins out of control. She's temporarily saved by the option to write a book about her experiences, but now she needs even bigger help. Will Charlie take the case?
Is it any good?
In the directorial debut from mile-a-minute screenwriter Aaron Sorkin, he opts to get out of his own way and stick to the script; the result isn't perfect, but it's energetic and entertaining. Chastain is a strong reason for the movie's effectiveness, playing a powerful woman who's unafraid to stand up to the men around her. She attacks Sorkin's dialogue with a frenzy and owns it. Molly's Game jumps around in time, with lots of narration and flashbacks, even continuing from where the nonfiction book by the real Molly Bloom left off. It goes on at a great rate for 140 whole minutes and never seems to flag.
But along the way, it's possible to question whether Molly deserves this kind of movie. After all, she did do the things she's accused of doing, even if she claims she didn't know the Russians had become involved. Why should we care? Even her lawyer is reluctant to take her case, and he has every reason in the world to feel that way. But, ultimately, this is a movie about poker, and Sorkin deals out scenes like a pro, zippily flinging cards and holding the important ones until he really needs them. His winning hand is the realization that this has been a father-daughter story all along, and that's the thing that matters.
Talk to your kids about ...
Is Molly a role model? Did you root for her? If so, why? Are there lessons to be learned from her story? Do you think things might have gone differently if she weren't a woman?
What's so appealing about high-stakes gambling? What's dangerous?
How is the movie's central father-daughter relationship depicted? How does it compare with your own, real-life relationships?
How does the movie compare with others that Sorkin has written (The Social Network, Moneyball, A Few Good Men, etc.)?
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