Full disclosure. I loved Molly’s Game for entirely personal reasons. I wouldn’t be able to like it if it were bad, but faulty as it is, I adored it.
The reasons are many, but one is key – Aaron Sorkin and Jessica Chastain managed to convey what it is like to have integrity and drive in equal measure as a woman in a world designed by men, and more importantly, how it feels to be denied a fragility that is a birthright, in order to be objectified as either competitor, seductress or victim.
None of the men in Molly’s life did anything to make it easier for her, and if there were offers for help – they came with a price tag. She started off as ego foil for her narcissistic dad (a pretty convincing Kevin Costner), training to be an Olypic skier, and being told that her tired means weak. That’s how he manipulated the anger she felt for him, for reasons much deeper than mere obstinacy. Her incredible drive came out of a primal fight for identity survival and a shred of personal justice in the shadow of anyone who claimed to control her destiny.
Of course, she was never to be a serious contender, as a freak accident made sure she change course. Those freak accidents seemed to be incredibly well-timed. So, she became the best at something else, in a world entirely populated by men, running games of professional poker, coast to US coast, and her personal price was the mask she wore in public without a flinch.
Until she did flinch, finally confronted by what it was brewing all along below all that testosterone directed towards her without compassion – and that was raw, brutal, primal aggression. A complete, uncompromising annihilation of her fragile womanhood. Someone sniffed it out, and it was the ones with least refinement, for whom the refinement of others presents an offence, as it rattles their own key fragility – a tragic sense of class inferiority.
Under FBI indictment, and looking for someone to defend her, Molly meets her man (a rock solid Idris Elba). One that is strong enough to have compassion. He sees her for what she is below the bravado, and steps up, fired up, helping Molly feel safe to be soft again. He fights for her. No man fought for her before. She was to be conquered, not sheltered
And that is the one thing I don’t witness much on-screen – shifting of the eternal war between sexes in one tiny scene, explaining, in what is essentially a high standard courtroom drama, something preciously true, if you know where to look.