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Posted at: Apr 15, 2018, 1:54 AM; last updated: Apr 15, 2018, 1:54 AM (IST)

Poker Princess

Aaron Sorkin’s psychological drama is based on the memoirs of Molly Bloom, who ran the world’s most exclusive high-stake card games
Poker Princess
Jessica Chastain in a still from Molly’s Game

Navnee Likhi

Aaron Sorkin’s directorial debut, Molly’s Game is the life story of a young woman who ran world’s most exclusive high-stake poker games in Los Angeles and New York City for nearly a decade in mid-2000 before she gets arrested by the FBI.  Her criminal lawyer Charlie Jeffrey realised that there was more to Molly’s character than what tabloids revealed and defends her case.

The story revolves around Molly Bloom, who is under FBI investigation. Her lawyer tries to convince her that the federals are just fishing for information about the people she rubbed shoulders with. “No big deal”, says Molly to him. She did not want to reveal the names of her clients. The movie is a slick tell-it-all drama, which shows her as a woman of beauty possessing an insightful mind for understanding human behaviour. The film moves almost at a runaway pace, continually switching between time periods. Through the montages and flashbacks, it unravels Molly’s early life and prosecutors trying to question her about poker games. The movie isn’t just about high stake poker but charts the journey of a woman in a male-dominated world. 

The movie opens with a voiceover by Molly Bloom: “I am Molly Bloom, do you know about me? I was raised to be a champion, my goal was to win.”

As she writes her memoir, Molly narrates her story. Raised in a family of high achievers, she is taught to be nothing but the best. She explains that in the memoir she has changed the names of all players who played poker at her table. She says if she reveals the names, their careers and lives of their families will be ruined. 

She tells about her early life as a teenager and her issues with her stern father who pushes her to exhaustion, demanding extremes for her skiing training before the Olympics. On the final day, however, she meets with a freak accident during skiing severely injuring her back. She crashes horribly and is rushed to the hospital. She decides to take a year off. She moves to Los Angeles city against her father’s wishes. 

She works as a cocktail waitress at a bar and catches the eye of Hollywood producer Dean Keith, who hires her as his assistant to run his poker games at a nightclub in Hollywood.  Here celebrities, business tycoons, athletes and the most powerful people in the world play poker with bets of tens of thousands of dollars. After the game, they give her tips in thousands of dollars. She realises how lucrative a career this can be. Meanwhile Dean Keith decides to cut Molly’s pay by half she is being tipped as well at his poker games. This motivates Molly to organise her own games with her new contacts.

Molly’s character is introduced to the world of poker quickly and shows her mastery of conducting the game even quicker. She learns how to push, pursue and gently pressurise her clients. Molly has to deal with tough oppressive male players who like to play the game by their own rules. Michael Cera, a Hollywood actor — the Player X reveals a real cruel streak — he, by his own admission, says that he enjoys ruining other players’ lives. When Molly confronts him about it, he moves to another table and cuts her out. Molly thinks about quitting while she is still doing well yet does not want to stop and she moves to New York. She organises similar high stake poker game at a fancy hotel there. She becomes successful in New York but eventually players start losing money and are in debt. Molly begins taking her percentage from the pot. Some Russian gangsters blackmail her to extract money from her in exchange for giving her protection but she refuses.They attack and molest her. Molly doesn’t realise that her poker customers include Russian gangsters.

Soon she gets a call that her game place has been raided by the FBI. She quits running the game for two years. The  authorities seize her bank account and she has no way of clearing her debts. The prosecutors confront Molly seeking information about celebrity players who played at her place. But she denies them information. Charlie argues Molly’s case. Finally on hearing him, the prosecutors reach a deal with Charlie that in exchange for immunity from imprisonment if Molly tells the truth, she will be able to operate her accounts. Molly refuses to do so since there is no criminal activity involved and pleads guilty. Finally she is sentenced to one-year probation and fine.

In her memoir, she writes that she has lost a lot in life and also faces consequences for her choices. Jessica Chastain in role of Molly Brown performs the role with abandon and vigour.

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