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But How Gay is ‘Molly’s Game’?

In “But How Gay Is It?”, we seek to answer the biggest questions you have about a new movie release in theaters now including, most crucially, the titular question. Does the movie have any queer characters? Are there stories involving same-sex lovers? Which gay icons star in the film? We’re bringing you all that and more.

What is Molly’s Game?

The first couple of weeks of a new year are always an odd mix. We’ve got awards-contending movies that are finally getting their wide releases a movie only needs to play for a week in Los Angeles to qualify for Oscar contention. Then there are low-budget offerings from studios looking to burn them off early. Very rarely do we get a Get Out-esque contender from these early, original releases.

Which means it’s much more fun to focus on the former as they trickle into theaters, like Molly’s Game. Aaron Sorkin’s directorial debut tells the true story of former “poker princess” Molly Bloom, a woman who ran high-stakes poker games in New York and LA, only to be arrested for connections to the Russian mob. Sorkin tells her story in media res, starting with her arrest and revealing her backstory in flashback.

Who’s in it?

Jessica Chastain stars boy, does she star as Molly herself, while Idris Elba plays her attorney, Charlie Jaffey. Kevin Costner gets a few insufferable scenes as her psychologist father (more on him later), while real-life celebrity players Tobey Maguire, Leonardo DiCaprio, and others are represented by a single, mysterious Player X (Michael Cera).

You’re here for Chastain, though. Trust me.

Why should I see it?

It’s an interesting story told by perhaps the best Aaron Sorkin script since The Social Network. (That stat gets less impressive when you remember since then he’s made Steve Jobs and The Newsroom.) But Chastain is the whole show.

But how gay is it?

If you don’t scream “YAAASS” for Flawless Queen Jessica Chastain as Flawed Queen Molly Bloom at least once, you may not be a homosexual.

In all seriousness, there’s nothing gay about Molly’s Game. Idris Elba is hot, of course, and watching Chastain destroy men is nothing short of a delight. But this is the story of a straight woman one who is somewhat disarmingly played as nonsexual in the movie. On the one hand, it’s nice to have a female protagonist who isn’t defined by her relationship to a romantic partner at all. On the other, there’s a disconnect between the way Molly presents herself as highly sexualized (Charlie calls her “the Cinemax version” of herself) and the lack of sexual life Sorkin gives her.

Wait, how is any of that about the movie’s gayness?

It isn’t. I just went on a tangent.

What makes Chastain’s performance so great?

She brings a ferociousness to Molly that never becomes two-dimensional. She’s full-force at almost all times, whether tearing down a man standing in her way or explaining to her lawyer what moral lines she won’t cross. When she takes a quieter beat a genuine moment of care for one of the players in her game, for instance Chastain makes the transition seamlessly. It’s a demanding role; she’s on screen for almost every frame of the movie. But she handles it brilliantly.

So what’s wrong with Costner as the dad?

HOO BOY. So, I genuinely loved most of Molly’s Game it made my top 10 movies of the year, a choice I don’t regret. And yet: There is a scene about three-fourths of the way through Molly’s Game between father and daughter that is so misguided, it almost derails the whole movie. Harsher critics than I would say the movie never actually recovers. You’ll know it when you see it: It involves an ice skating accident and therapy on a bench.

But it’s still worth it?

Totally. Molly’s Game is one of the most watchable movies I’ve ever seen. You may not love every inch of it, but you’ll walk away entertained and you’ll probably learn something about poker in the process.

Molly’s Game is in theaters now.


 

Kevin O'KeeffeKevin O'Keeffe

Kevin O'Keeffe is a writer and 'RuPaul's Drag Race' herstorian. He covers film and TV for INTO, and writes the movie review column "But How Gay Is It?" every Friday.

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