Aaron Sorkin’s ‘Molly’s Game’ Is Based on a Messy True Story

Movies


The big picture

  • Molly Bloom was a competitive skier turned poker entrepreneur who rubbed elbows with stars and A-list mobsters.
  • Bloom's lavish lifestyle led to addiction, encounters with Russian mobsters, and eventual legal trouble.
  • After being arrested and accused of running an illegal poker empire, she published a memoir that eventually became the basis of the film.
    Molly's game
    directed by Aaron Sorkin.


Having deployed his trademark verbal fireworks through plays, scripts and teleplays for decades, it was only a matter of time before the renowned wordsmith. Aaron Sorkin would try his hand at directing films. In 2017, he did just that when he stepped behind the camera to direct Molly's game. Based on the 2014 novel of the same name, Sorkin's directorial debut follows the story of Molly Bloom (Jessica Chastain), a budding Olympian who transitioned into a world of ruthless entrepreneurship where she ran an underground poker empire.


Rub elbows with the rich and famous, Bloom was very successful in his business endeavors, though it all came to a screeching halt when, while battling personal demons, he caught the attention of the FBI and Russian mobsters. Featuring one of Jessica Chastain's best performances alongside stellar supporting turns IdrisElba i Kevin Costner, Molly's game tells Bloom's stranger-than-fiction tale of ambition, self-discovery, and redemption with Aaron Sorkin's signature writing and assured direction. But how faithful is the film to the story that inspired it?

Molly's game

Publication date
December 25, 2017

director
Aaron Sorkin

Execution time
141



Molly Bloom was a competitive skier and bartender before overseeing a poker empire

Years before she ran lucrative poker games, Molly Bloom grew up among the best and was a skilled skier with hopes of competing in the Olympics. “Literally, if you weren't the best in the world in my family, it wasn't impressive,” she recalls. “I was looking for that thing that made me feel fulfilled inside.” After training under the tutelage of his loving but domineering father and competing at a high level, he excelled in the sport and was ranked third in the country while in college, but abandoned his aspirations to compete even more in favor of other efforts.

With skiing behind him, Bloom moved to Los Angeles. After working as a waitress, she was almost – and accidentally – nearly hit by a man in her car who, recognizing her work uniform, offered her a position in a restaurant and a job as an assistant. The man, to whom Bloom refers Reardon Green in his book, he also co-owned the Viper Room, a local club where he hosted poker games with the tinsel town's elite. After working for and alongside Green, and becoming familiar with the world of high-stakes underground gambling, Bloom was fired. but not before amassing enough knowledge, experience and personal contacts to lay the foundation for what would become his poker empire..


Molly Bloom rubbed elbows with Hollywood stars and mobsters

While the identities of high-profile celebrities who played Molly Bloom's games are obscured in Aaron Sorkin's film, the entrepreneur did not hesitate to put names in her book. According to Bloom, A-listers included Tobey Maguire, Leonardo DiCaprioi Ben Affleck frequented his games. Known as Player X (Michael Cera) in Molly's game, Maguire made quite an impression, albeit not in the most charming way, allegedly behaving in a degrading and abusive manner. For TIME, one occasion saw the actor offer Bloom $1,000 to “bark like a seal,” and later taunt her over the phone after she lost control of her lucrative Los Angeles game. In 2017, when he asked her vice if she could ever look at Tobey Maguire as Spider-Man the same way again, she replied, “I haven't even tried.”


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As Molly Bloom's profile rose, so was his indulgence in alcohol, drugs and financial gain. she said vulture, “I think I thought it was a rough time in my life, that this was just contextual, and I realized that it really wasn't: that I really was an addict.” Locked up in the Plaza Hotel in New York City, Bloom was running poker games that, according to people, required purchases of up to $250,000 and hosted gamblers whose losses often ran into millions. Eventually, and perhaps inevitably, he attracted the attention of Russian mobsters, whose offer of security in exchange for profits declined. In response, she was assaulted and robbed weeks later by an associate of the men she rejected. “It was a very dark thing that happened during the darkest time of my life,” Bloom said vice.


“I was financing the games, vetting the players, extending the credit,” he recalls. As the stakes surrounding his poker empire grew ever higher, Bloom made a crucial mistake. Fully responsible for millions of dollars, and desperate to keep control of the company that had brought her to the top, she began to take out the pot. “That's where I crossed that little gray line,” Bloom said people. While it may have been greed or a momentary lapse of judgment, the move would be soon draw the attention of federal authorities and turn their profitable endeavor upside down.

Molly Bloom was arrested and charged with unlawful taking


In March 2011, the FBI raided one of Molly Bloom's poker games, even though she was not present at the time. But according to The Hollywood Reportershe was arrested two years later and charged with “profiteering from illegal poker games.” Facing years in prison and hefty fines, she pleaded guilty in December 2013 and was fined $125,000 plus a year of probation.. In retrospect, having dodged a lengthy prison sentence and total financial ruin, Bloom apparently viewed his run-in with the authorities as a blessing in disguise. “I had spent my life so terrified of failure that when it happened, it was very liberating,” he acknowledged.

Her poker empire may have been shattered, but from its deconstruction came an opportunity for Molly Bloom to tell her story. Before being arrested and charged, was already writing a book detailing her experiences as an entrepreneur rubbing elbows with the rich and famous. Thanks to HarperCollins, Molly's game was published in 2014, and while Bloom wasted no time trying to get her book into the hands of Hollywood power players, bringing her memoir from page to screen was no easy task. “Everyone wanted to have a meeting, but no one wanted to make the film”, he remembers. But she found an ally in Aaron Sorkin, who said of Bloom and her story: “Molly was an honest-to-God real-life movie heroine who was in an unlikely place. This was a story moral of doing the right thing when the wrong thing is easier.”


How faithful is “Molly's Game” to its source material?

Kevin Costner as Larry and Jessica Chastain as Molly Bloom sitting on a bench in Molly's Game
Image via STX Entertainment

Given the larger-than-life nature of Molly Bloom's story, you may be surprised to discover that Aaron Sorkin's film is mostly faithful to the truth. While Bloom's skiing career did not end due to injury and the character of Charlie (Idris Elba) is a fictionalized version of his legal defense, many of the film's key actors and events are depicted with a precision eye According to Sorkin, he spent “hundreds of hours” chatting with Bloom during the research process of adapting his memoir for the screen. According to ESPN, Sorkin and Bloom worked together five days a week for months to develop the project. “It was intense,” he recalls. “I should probably pay for her therapy.”


While concerned with facts and reality, Sorkin—ultimately a playwright—added some creativity to drive the film's narrative, characters, and themes of self-discovery and redemption. Among the events a Molly's game which presumably never took place was Molly's last conversation with her father (Kevin Costner) near the end of the film. “There's very little about his father in the book,” Sorkin told Indiewire. “What's there is a lot in praise of the strange relationship he had with his father.” The interaction on that New York City park bench may not have happened, but it's still one of them Molly's game the most powerful and cathartic scenes, bringing together Bloom's independent ambition and intense personal trajectory with a story of complex family relationships. Truth is often stranger than fictioni Molly's game deftly balances reality and drama with compelling believability, thanks in large part to Sorkin's confident storytelling and Jessica Chastain's turn as the film's title character.


Molly's game is available to watch on Netflix in the US

WATCH ON NETFLIX



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