I don’t know anything about poker, but I love poker movies, especially Norman Jewison’s “The Cincinnati Kid.”

I once had a friend who was addicted to high-level poker games and lost a fortune, so why would I be interested in doing that?

I know even less about professional skiing, or skiing at any level. It’s cold and dangerous, it killed Sonny Bono, Natasha Richardson, Michael L. Kennedy, and Alfonso, Duke of Anjou and Cadiz. So why would I be interested in doing that?

I’ll tell you what interests me, Jessica Chastain interests me.

I’ve seen all of her films and watching her, is for me, like drinking good wine, I can’t get enough of her.

I could watch Jessica in a home movie, drying her clothes, vacuuming the rugs, teaching her kids how to read, bringing in the paper and making oatmeal.


So in “Molly’s Game” I get to learn about high-risk poker, Olympic tryout skiing, and all while watching Jessica. A nice deal.

Jessica is Molly Bloom, an American beauty rose with a Russian Jewish heritage, with a domineering psychologist father (Kevin Costner in his smallest and greatest role).

We say hello to Molly as a child skier who could have been an Olympic champion, but blew it early in the game by hitting a stick.

We say goodbye to her in a court room with everything, millions of dollars, her life and her freedom on the line. It’s a tingly scene, a breathtaking sequence, scarier than dying on a slope or losing $6 million in one poker hand.

But the best scene in the film, a small one set on a Central Park bench, is, for me, memorable. Her father, Kevin Costner, a psychologist, demands an answer to three questions, and everything you need to know about Molly and were afraid to ask, is answered.

Molly, always a tough razor-sharp piece of work, grew up and became the madam of high-stakes poker games. She had it all, gorgeous clothes, heart-stopping looks and a mind for detail like Stephen Hawking.


I forgot to tell you. “Molly” is written and directed by Aaron Sorkin, the great Aaron Sorkin who gave us high speed bullets like “The West Wing,” “A Few Good Men” and “Social Network.” That’s all you need to know about the picture’s power.

He writes with a machine gun, but this is his first shot behind the camera, and he doesn’t fall on a stick.

Bloom’s real life players, Leonardo DiCaprio, Ben Affleck and Tobey Maguire all mentioned in her book of the same title, were among her top weekly players.

Then, Boom! One morning her phone wakes her. “This is the FBI. We’re at your door. You have five minutes to open it or we’re breaking it down.”

Molly will need a lawyer fast and she gets one, probably the best lawyer since Clarence Darrow. Meet Idris Elba, (“The Wire,” “The Dark Tower”) who favors white shirts and $250,000 billing hours.

Then after a cold interrogation meeting, he takes her on, and the movie really begins to percolate. Elba, always a great international actor, sets the screen on fire.


Between the two of them, they outdo the Santa Barbara blaze. Find something else for them to do.

Charlotte Bruus Christensen’s camera focuses on the essentials. Beautiful work.

“Molly Bloom” is, of course, a sure fire Oscar contender, in a year when almost everything running is. It’s gonna be a big night at the Kodak.

J.P. Devine, of Waterville, is a former stage and film actor.

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