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HomeBlogsMark and Candice's blog“Molly’s Game” Made Us Wish We Were Watching “Goodfellas” Instead [Spoilers]

“Molly’s Game” Made Us Wish We Were Watching “Goodfellas” Instead [Spoilers]

It’s that time of year when we start to hear Oscar buzz around certain movies. Whether that buzz is created by critics or the films themselves can’t be certain. “Molly’s Game” stars Jessica Chastain, who plays the real-life Molly Bloom, a woman who successfully ran two of the most exclusive and infamous high-stakes poker games in the country. The movie picks up where Bloom’s book leaves off when she becomes a target in a FBI RICOH case. In this review, Mark and I delve into some details of Bloom’s life that are depicted in the film, which could be construed as spoilers. However, my main question regarding this film is why is it being considered for any awards?

 

Mark says

Yeah I don't know.

 

Candice

Me either.

 

Mark says

Tell us what you really feel. Don't hold back your feelings.

 

Candice says

Okay, so first off, the prevailing thought I had while watching this movie was that it was a less interesting, female version of “Goodfellas,” but lacking Joe Pesci and all the fun, danger, and excitement.

 

Mark says

Yeah, the first part definitely feels a lot like “Goodfellas,” which sort of invented this genre in a lot of ways, although I'm sure there are other movies that did it before, where you're watching a movie with a bunch of people doing some sort of criminal enterprise and you watch the meteoric rise and then the inevitable fall. Along with the fall comes a lot of emotional and psychological problems, like drug addiction and family or relationship disintegration. The other film that this reminded me of, especially toward the end, was “Wolf of Wall Street.”

 

Candice says

Watching a movie, you bring to it your own baggage. To me, as a black woman, this movie seemed ridiculous in so many ways. I don't want to give away the ending at all, even though it's based on a true story, but I watched this movie knowing that is not the justice that I would receive. No matter who I was or what my prior record was, there is no judge in this country who would look at me and go against what the prosecution was like suggesting. That's just doesn't exist. It must be nice, you know?

            There were also parts of the story that were conveniently left out, because a lot of things didn't make sense. I think the thing that worked so well about “Goodfellas” is they popularized the convention. “Goodfellas” was so long ago, so we've seen this whole idea of a narrator talking over the story and leading us through it. “Wolf of Wall Street,” like you said, does that also. However I think those examples were to better effect because they kept up the convention the entire movie. This one just lets it drop when it's no longer convenient. This felt like Lifetime was trying to make an edgy movie.

 

Mark says

You know I grew up on mafia films. If you're Italian American, very likely you’ve had at least passing exposure to the accepted greats, such as “The Godfather” and “Goodfellas.” There's some sense of “Molly’s Game” being blunted. This woman who doesn't come from a family that had instilled in her some understanding of how these things work and who is unable to recognize when the people around her are dangerous or connected or otherwise could be volatile, you feel a little bit like the whole thing is covered in bubble wrap, because she's absolutely unaware of the implications of the people she's dealing with or how things could play out. And I would say in most movies that follow this formula, especially the mafia movies, generally you're watching the whole time the violence around the character and the character cannot ignore it. There's some incident where the violence gets so in their face that you watch them have a real decision moment. There is a moment like that in this film, but it happened so late for the character that you almost feel like she deserves it. She's been so willfully ignorant of all the implications and the impacts of the things that she's doing.

            I would like to back up and say that I think the film is well made. I do think the performances are good, but I honestly feel like the subject matter and the character of Molly Bloom undercut my ability to enjoy it, because with her being so tone deaf to what she's doing and how it's affecting people and the kind of people that are coming into her orbit and how they might be dangerous to her, you can't really, or at least I could not, feel sympathy for her or see her as even a decent protagonist in any way.

 

Candice says

I feel like at the end they so desperately tried to make her a good guy.

 

Mark says

There is something about the lead character of “Goodfellas.” There's something about Jordan Balfour in “Wolf of Wall Street” that despite them being despicable people you almost are thankful that they did what they did so that you could see the ride. You could share in the adventure. And so even though they're not great protagonists from the perspective of people that you'd even want to know in your life, you're still fascinated and enjoy the trip of watching their rise and fall and watching them talk about it and be brutally honest with you in a confessional way. In this film, there's nothing about her experience that I was really entertained by. It made me mad. It made me frustrated. It made me look at our justice system and issues with it that I think are insane. It made me see social and economic inequalities, but there was nothing about it that was fascinating.

 

Candice says

And none of those things were the point. I think also, to go back to what you were saying about “Wolf of Wall Street” and Ray Liotta's character in “Goodfellas,” when you try to portray such a “Type A” person, where they're supposed to be so calculating and so smart, yet she was absolutely clueless, I just I felt like it was really hard to get across her personality other than she supposed to be highly intelligent and Type A. The movie wasn't boring, but it didn't really give Jessica Chastain much to work with.

 

Mark says

Leonardo DiCaprio's character has kind of a frat boy, “Aren't I naughty” sort of tone. And Ray Liotta's tone is just soaked in this nostalgia about the era. In both of those cases that's the personality that draws you in. She runs this line between being as disconnected as the guy in Camus's “The Stranger,” where she absolutely has no ownership of anything happening to her in her life but then also being a little Rain Man-esque where she's talking about the exact angles of things and numbers. Like “A Beautiful Mind.” So I think as a character, we're not given a lot to attach ourselves to.

 

Candice says

I definitely felt like the supporting actors—all the guys who were at the table—were the ones who added the color and the excitement to the movie. I felt like Jessica Chastain and Idris Elba's character were the focus in the storyline that was so procedural. It was like a good episode of “Law and Order.”

 

Mark says

It's also frustrating because you're watching Idris Elba's character, who’s a very by the numbers kind of lawyer, and obviously Idris Elba as an actor is super talented. You always want to see him pushed to the limits of what he can do, and that's not this role for him. So basically you're frustrated by watching him play a character who's telling the protagonist of a movie that she needs to behave in her own best interests, and she refused to. Then despite the fact that she refuses to work in her own best interests, things continue to go her way, which is not an experience I think most of us have in our lives.

 

Candice says

Which is not an experience that Idris Elba's character would have ever received.

 

Mark says

Being an African-American in law, he would have had things stacked against him in a way.

 

Candice says

I don't know if that was what they were trying to highlight. It’s based on the true story so I'm assuming she had an African-American lawyer.

 

Mark says

They say something accidentally if it was an act of colorblind casting where they just cast him because he's Idris Elba but not because that's true to the story. The accidental side effect is that there is a race and class message that goes into this movie about how unfair the justice system is if you don't come from a white family with some sort of notoriety to it. When you walk into court with the FBI pointed at you, you know you’re going to be put you away for several years.

 

Candice says

I was shocked that she got a phone call beforehand that the FBI were outside. Who gets a phone call?

 

Mark says

Yeah. “Get dressed. We're outside.”

 

Candice says

“Is now a good time for you?” Really!?! Who's life is this?

 

Mark says

“Well, you know, I was going to go shopping later, but I guess I'll come out.” It was very strange from top to bottom that way, and you're right when you talk about the gamblers at the table, even the more despicable ones, are the element of danger. They are the element of excitement in the story. So when there's no gambling on screen, which of course can't be the whole movie, you're back to talking heads and a protagonist who's frustrating.

 

Candice says

Honestly, my favorite parts of the movie and the ones that held the most tension were when there was $750,000 on the table.

 

Mark says

There's a gambler in the story who is inept, and you wonder does this man know what he's doing. Three-quarters of a million dollars, and he just does not seem to know how to play poker at all.

 

Candice says

My final thoughts on this is that we've seen this kind of story so many times. We've already named a few. I just remembered “War Dogs,” which is exactly this. This is well-tread territory. I don't think “Molly’s Game” does anything new. It doesn't bring anything to this.

 

Mark says

You once told me that you felt like the roles they got awards were usually ones where there was such a clear arc for the actor involved so that you could watch that character go from A to Z. So Denzel in “Training Day” comes in as this cocky, powerful sort of scumbag cop, and then by the end of the movie, he is completely ruined and destroyed and has brought all of this onto himself. You can see that over and over again. Film after film. Usually the ones that we see that get awards, there is just a dramatic and amazing arc between where the character was at the beginning of the film and where they are at the end. I think with her character in this film, the only change is kind of a psychological realization about herself but that doesn't necessarily result in any change. And so I feel like from that perspective, if you're placing bets about whether this movie has Academy Award prospects, which is sort of ironic based on the subject of this movie, I would definitely not favor this film unless something has gone terribly wrong this year. There are other films I believe conclusively where the actors have such a clear arc and are so different at the end of the film from the beginning. She is in true fashion true a testament to how broken the system is and goes through this entire film and seems completely unchanged.

 

Candice says

“Molly’s Game” opens on Christmas Day.

Mark and Candice

Mark and Candice

Sometimes the best part of reading an article online is engaging in a conversation in the comment section. However, discussions involving opposing points of view between strangers can devolve into a toxic environment. So what if these conversations were had between two people who loved each other?

At Cheek to Geek, our contributors consist of a diverse group of couples who are steeped in geek and popular culture. Our reviews reflect the back-and-forth, opposing or concurring, debates that geeks are notorious for having. But our founders, Mark and Candice Roma, have always felt that the love and respect felt for certain fandoms should carry over into the way we discuss them. Candice hopes that by modeling fruitful and productive discourses in our blogs, vlogs, and podcasts that we can show our readers the value in having disparate opinions and that differing perspectives don’t have to lead to hostile confrontation. “Mark and I have been together almost nine years, and every time we go see a movie, read book, go to a new restaurant, or see something awesome, we immediately ask what the other one thought. We don’t always agree, but having a conversation with my husband is my favorite part of experiencing something new.”

Although Cheek to Geek focuses on the opinions of specific couples, Mark believes that our vision for the site will extend far beyond that. “Ultimately the goal of art is to communicate, and the goal of communication is to build a community.” Our mission is to create a positive, inclusive, and safe environment for the appreciation and discussion of popular art in all its forms. 

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