Can Molly’s Game Make Poker Cool Again?

Martin Derbyshire September 28, 2017 1191 Reads
Molly's Game -- Poker

Coming out of its debut at the Toronto International Film Festival earlier this month, Molly’s Game appears to be a film full of potential.

At press time, the Aaron Sorkin-scripted and directed movie had a Tomatometer rating of 93 percent fresh on the popular film review-aggregator site RottenTomatoes. In fact, there were 27 fresh reviews and just two rotten ones. All indications are Molly’s Game is going to be a hit with critics at the very least.

In advance of the film’s November 22 wide release, indieWire’s David Ehrlich was calling it a “silver-tongued drama that boasts a zillion killer lines.” Plus, Todd McCarthy of the Hollywood Reporter said the movie “both entertains and makes you lean in to absorb every detail.”

Early praise could help drive initial ticket sales. However, audiences will ultimately decide the film’s box office fate.

Great potential for a first-time director

When it comes to potential, however, it could be really great for Sorkin. He is making his directorial debut with this film. As a screenwriter, he’s found great success with films like The Social Network, which earned him the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay. If Molly’s Game is ultimately deemed a great success it could help open even bigger doors for Sorkin as a director.

There’s even big potential for the film’s stars, Jessica Chastain and Idris Elba. There’s early Oscar buzz surrounding the pair based on their Molly’s Game performances.

Oscar buzz for Chastain and Elba

In the past, Chastain has been nominated for two Academy Awards. This includes Best Supporting Actress for The Help in 2011 and Best Actress for Zero Dark Thirty in 2012. Molly’s Game now has the potential to give her that elusive win and Elba his first nomination.

But perhaps Molly’s Game‘s biggest potential surrounds the game of poker.

The movie is based on the book Molly’s Game: From Hollywood’s Elite to Wall Street’s Billionaire Boys Club, My High-Stakes Adventure in the World of Underground Poker written by Molly Bloom. It’s Bloom’s memoir. It tells the tale of how the Colorado native went from Olympic-level skier to the host of an exclusive high-stakes underground poker game. The game itself is the stuff of legend. It featured Hollywood celebrities, pro athletes, mobsters and billionaire whales.

In fact, it’s all based on about as cool a poker scene as there is or ever was.

Making poker cool again

The 1998 Matt Damon and Edward Norton film Rounders helped launch the original poker boom of the early 2000’s. It’s secret was making poker look super cool.

It has been almost 15 years since Chris Moneymaker won the World Series of Poker Main Event. Since then, hordes of introverted math geeks have torn away at the fabric of that image.

Now, with its A-list cast and crew, slick subject matter, and a script from someone who made creating code for a social media site look hip, Molly’s Game has the potential to make poker cool again.

It isn’t likely to create another boom the size of the one before. However, it might move poker programming off of online subscription services and back on big TV networks again.

It might draw Hollywood celebrities, top athletes, and other trendsetters back to the game. It might even get a few more women involved, tapping into poker’s biggest potential for growth.

At the end of the day, Molly’s Game may just be another Lucky You. Despite all its initial promise, that film did little to help poker at all. But right now, a month out from its release, Molly’s Game has the potential to do something great.