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Film of the week Ace hand from Aaron Sorkin

MARIA DUARTE recommends a gripping tale about high-stakes poker from a first-time director

Molly's Game (15)
Directed by Aaron Sorkin

THE RISE and fall of entrepreneur Molly Bloom — the “Poker Princess” — who ran the world's most exclusive high-stakes poker game for a decade before being apprehended by the FBI is depicted in this slick, stylish and absolutely engrossing directorial debut feature by writer Aaron Sorkin.

Based on Bloom's memoirs, it's a warning against the seductions of power and fame, and it's peopled by Hollywood A-listers, sports stars, business tycoons and, unbeknown to her, members of the Russian mob who attend her games.

There are $100 million losses, Mafia hitmen and FBI raids as the excitement and tension build, but Sorkin also highlights the pitfalls of greed and mingling with the rich, the powerful and the overprivileged.

Jessica Chastain gives another powerhouse performance as the driven Bloom, as does Idris Elba as her attorney.

Sorkin's smart and razor-sharp screenplay captures the heart and soul of Bloom's book, matched by Chastain's rounded and nuanced depiction of this single-minded young businesswoman.

A former Olympic-class skier, whose career was cut short following a severe accident, she's from an overachieving family — one of her brothers is a Harvard surgeon, the other a double Olympic ski champion — who was drilled by her father, played brilliantly by Kevin Costner, to be the best. Hence her determination to be number one in her chosen field.

The real identities of the rich and famous are protected, with Michael Cera starring as Player X, the manipulative Hollywood star who ends Bloom's successful run in Los Angeles before she headed off to New York.

The good news is you don't need to be a poker player to follow the action in what's an extraordinary and complex story, compellingly told.



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