Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Miss Sloane & Molly's Game

By Sati. Wednesday, January 17, 2018 , , , , , , , , , , , ,

"Depression and anger gave way to blinding rage at my powerlessness over the unfair whims of men"

This month I saw two movies where the lead role was played by Jessica Chastain - terrific Miss Sloane and entertaining Molly's Game. Chastain was Golden Globe nominated for both, missed the Oscar nomination last year and who knows if she makes it next week. I decided to do a double post feature on them, because while it's Molly's Game that is getting attention right now it's a shame Miss Sloane, a much better movie, didn't get the spotlight last year.

Miss Sloane: In the high-stakes world of political power-brokers, Elizabeth Sloane is the most sought after and formidable lobbyist in D.C. But when taking on the most powerful opponent of her career, she finds winning may come at too high a price.

Molly's Game: The true story of Molly Bloom, an Olympic-class skier who ran the world's most exclusive high-stakes poker game and became an FBI target.

While both films are great to watch, Molly's Game is disappointing when it comes to the script. And that is a huge let down, considering it's written by Aaron Sorkin. In comparison, Miss Sloane was written by Jonathan Perera and it was his very first script. Sorkn could actually learn a thing or two from Perera. Miss Sloane is tightly written but it breathes, which cannot be said about Molly's Game. While the story is very interesting, the film is quite exhausting.  Not only is it Sorkin dialogue, but then the story - in Stefon's voice - it has everything: quick poker tutorial for the audience, Italian mob, Russian mob, Bloom's sport career, assault, drug addiction - it's just overwhelming. The characters get lost in there somewhere and it's all Sorkin's fault for clipping the cast members' wings.

Molly's Game
Also Sorkin is no Scorsese or Fincher when it comes to directing skills. These guys can juggle a multitude of events, settings, time periods and characters with grace and elegance. Sorkin doesn't have such a skill.

What doesn't help is that there are several arcs in the film that feel unresolved and abandoned and some that are just poorly written.The best example of that is the father/daughter arc which is ridden with cliches and frankly insulting both to the audience and to the protagonist. So all of this was because of her daddy issues? And the way Sorkin tells us that is in a clumsy 5-minute long sequence that is so cliche and cringe worthy I was legitimately expecting sepia-toned flashback of little Molly seeing her dad doing freaky stuff with his mistress in a car.

Molly's Game also makes countless efforts of getting the audience to sympathize with the protagonist - she gets savagely beaten up in a very brutal scene that doesn't fit the rest of the movie, she cares about the degenerate gamblers and wants to protect them and their families and she, apparently, subconsciously punishes her dad for being unfaithful. Sorkin bends over backwards to add depth to his heroine but none of that really works because we don't really get to know Molly, not in a movie where people talk like they did several lines of cocaine and the story continuously jumps around in time and space.

Miss Sloane
In Miss Sloane they made no efforts to make the character warm or appealing. We saw the dimensions to Elizabeth Sloane through her actions entirely consistent with her cold, calculating nature. There was no big reveal that she has been trough something awful. There was no big Oscar clip revealing some terrible trauma. There were hints here and there that she has had a tough life, but nothing explicit. And this is the writing that respects the viewer.

Some people are cold. Some people are calculating. And sometimes they become like that not through one event, that you can show in a movie in 2 minutes in a big scene filled with tears, screams and reveals, but they were becoming that slowly, through their entire lives. Which doesn't mean they lost the ability to do something good. Another thing about Miss Sloane is that the character's actions that hurt others are not forgiven. You expect them to be, because this always happens in movies, but it doesn't happen here.

Molly's Game
With all of the script's flaws, Sorkin lucked out on having actors who really do whatever they can. Chastain delivers a good role, but far from her best. She is very convincing as a young woman, mostly because of her youthful voice. We also feel for her not because of Sorkin's relentless, melodramatic efforts but because of the sheer determination and strength that Chastain is so good at infusing her roles with. Michael Cera shows up as a truly shitty person and the fact his character is based on Tobey McGuire is just icing on the cake. Kevin Costner does what he can. But it's Elba who completely steals the movie (and he needs only one scene to do it). The writing still fails him, even in the film's climactic scene (really, Sorkin's efforts here are extremely disappointing, throughout the film), but Elba puts so much conviction and so much charisma in it that this scene, running a bit over 2 minutes, makes the whole film worth seeing.

This shouldn't really be happening, though. In a film like this, it is the protagonist who should easily have the most memorable scene. Sorkin allows Elba to steal the spotlight, because Chastain doesn't have a moment big enough to really burn in your memory. She is solid throughout but in Miss Sloane there are several moments that are very surprising and impactful, that will make me rewatch that movie over and over again.

What needs to be praised about both movies, though, is that neither Elizabeth Sloane nor Molly Bloom have a love interest in the film. There is no romance arc in these movies. Hollywood executives seem to be convinced that for women to enjoy movies there must always be a romance but that's not true. Yes, Chastain does have nice chemistry with Lacy and Elba, but these films prove that a well written, interesting female protagonist does not need a man to chase after or chase her in order for her actions and feelings to interest the audience.

Miss Sloane
It may seem like I didn't like Molly's Game, but it's a fine movie. It had the disadvantage of me recently rewatching The Wolf of Wall Street - an example of how to tell a story with so many characters and so many events right - and watching Miss Sloane which was simply riveting. Nonetheless, Chastain yet again shines leading a movie and her strength and fierceness are always inspiring to watch on screen. Whether she is the suburban wife who cannot connect with other women in the town, calculating wife to a dreamy husband (I refuse not to fangirl over Oscar even when the post has nothing to do with him), a driven lobbyist or a woman finding joy in having power over powerful men, Chastain always creates the kind of female characters we need to see on the screen more than ever these days.

Women who refuse to take any crap from men surrounding them.


Miss Sloane, 89/100
Molly's Game, 72/100

22 comments:

  1. MOBILE works. Bookmarking you on my phone!

    You just reminded me that I STILL haven’t seen Miss Sloane. Really want to though. And I’m a pretty big fan of Molly’s Game. The story itself didn’t excite me but I was surprised at how latched on I was.

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    1. oh man, I hope you manage to read these on PC especially RF, so many gifs!

      Oh watch it, it's really excellent!

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  2. Great post! I liked Molly's Game quite a bit more than Miss Sloane but I'm glad the latter really worked for you. That film kind of came and went without much fanfare.

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    1. Thank you! It's really a shame it didn't get much recognition

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  3. Haven't seen Molly's Game yet, but I thoroughly enjoyed Miss Sloan. Not typically a Chastain fan, but she was excellent as Miss Sloan. I thought it was one of the underrated films of 2016. LIke you said, we don't often see female characters like that. They've typically experienced some trauma they have to work through and other crap like that. Miss Sloan was unsentimental and unapologetic. I think I saw it in 2017 or it would have probably been on my best list of 2016.

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    1. There are so few movies like this. Even in Young Adult they had to have big scene where Theron yells about miscarriage.

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  4. I have Miss Sloan in my library watchlist as I hope to see that soon as I'm also intrigued by Molly's Game. After all, Jessica Chastain is one of the best actresses working today and I'm still miffed that she got overlooked for her performance in Crimson Peak which I love and she made that film a joy to watch.

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    1. She was definitely the best thing about Crimson Peak!

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  5. Great reviews. I wish more people saw (and talked about) Miss Sloane. That was a very well made movie featuring a great Chastain performance. And I agree, Chastain is consistently delivering female characters we need to see. Now more than ever. More, please.

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    1. It just went completely under the radar for the silly reason of not getting Oscar nominations, shamefully it was also my reason for not watching it last year because I had to watch everything that was nominated and that was just so much stuff.

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  6. GOD, I LOVED Miss Sloane. And I was also ever-so-slightly disappointed by Sorkin's work on Molly's Game. I still enjoyed Molly's Game, but the dialogue and story in general weren't as razor-sharp as usual. Chastain and Elba really do elevate the material something fierce (by being so fierce). That park bench scene very nearly derailed the whole thing for me, and it was clearly a scene of Sorkin's own invention. But overall I thought it was still really good. Definitely not a patch on Miss Sloane, though, which I REALLY want to rewatch.

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    1. So awesome to read so many people are fans of this one! Yeah that park scene was just terrible. It just wasn't earned at all and came out of the blue

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  7. Whoa, Jessica Chastain double bill. Oh happy day!

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    1. Today is happy too, she is hosting SNL :)

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  8. Since I don't really like Chastain, I'm pretty sure I might still end up watching Miss Sloan then, since it does seem the better of the two. And it's quite disappointing that Sorkin doesn't deliver, I mean, as of now, I expect him to be on the top of his game, always.

    PS: I totally read those things in Stefon's voice and counting them on my fingers as well! :D

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    1. Lol, Stefon is the best :) Sorkin hasn't been on top of his game for a while and honestly his directing skills aren't very good

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  9. Jessica Chastain - absolutely smashing it. Good on her!

    I'm eagerly looking forward to seeing both of these as I've admired Chastain's work for a number of years.

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    1. I think you'll like them a lot since you are a fan :)

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  10. I really like Chastain, after reading this I need to see both movies. Molly's Game just opened here =D

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  11. I saw Molly's Game and then Miss Sloane. It seemed to me that Chastain's characters' personalities were the same, just different situations. Still, both movies were intriguing.

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  12. Great post! I really enjoyed both of these films but I think I liked Molly's Game a tiny bit more. You're right about the father/daughter arc though. It wasn't explored as it should have and that park scene, I'm still speechless.

    As for Miss Sloane, I too am happy they didn't give the character some clichéd backstory to make us sympathize with her. The character was perfect they way it was written.

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