Molly’s Game: An Emotional Directorial Debut for Aaron Sorkin

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“Playing Cards” (CC BY 2.0) by Photographing Travis

The infamous Hollywood home game that featured the likes of Ben Affleck and Leonardo DiCaprio is set to be turned into a major motion picture thanks screenwriter Aaron Sorkin. The man behind films such as The Social Network acquired the rights to the story of Molly Bloom and her home games involving high stakes, high drama and some of the highest-rated actors in the world.

The film, which is based on the memoirs of Molly Bloom and her book Molly’s Game, will attempt to portray the highly secretive world of the high stakes home games frequented by the likes of Affleck and DiCaprio. Moreover, it will paint the picture of a woman who was once a world-class athlete but then became known as the Poker Princess of the US.

More to Molly than Meets the Eye

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“skiing” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by nonanet

Of course, like any good film, there will be a back story for Sorkin to focus on both in his script and from the director’s chair (this will be his directorial debut). Indeed, before Bloom became the host of home games for the rich and famous, she was a champion skier.

However, after failing to make the US Olympic team, she used her network of contacts to set up a lucrative Hollywood home game circuit. Bringing together some of the richest and most famous celebrities in Hollywood, the games would reportedly see thousands of dollars exchange hands in a matter of minutes.

Unfortunately, an FBI investigation into illegal gaming practices led to the demise of the game and earned Bloom a $1,000 fine and a year’s probation.

However, it was Bloom’s tales of high stakes battles between DiCaprio and his peers which caught the imagination of the general public and that led to a battle for the movie rights to the book. This is a battle which Sorkin eventually won.

A Game of Emotions

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“poker” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by jpbourque

Of course, one of the most intriguing aspects of Sorkin’s film will be the interaction between Hollywood’s finest when there’s big money on the line. According to Bloom’s book, some of the famous faces in the game weren’t exactly rays of sunshine when the pressure was on. In fact, Bloom described Spiderman actor Tobey Maguire as “moody” and a “poor tipper” in her book.

Although he was cordial during the games, his competitive nature and the fact there were hundreds of thousands of dollars at stake on a single hand meant he was often ultra-focused on the action. It’s this dynamic Sorkin will be hoping to captivate audiences with when his film goes on general release. Although many people know poker as the friendly game you play around your kitchen table for peanuts, the other side of the game is a little more serious. Thanks to the rise of internet poker since the turn of the century, real money poker has become highly competitive.

High Stakes Means High Drama

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“Tobey Maguire 1” (CC BY 2.0) by Tostie14

Fundamentally there are no differences between poker played for real money and poker played for peanuts (or anything else without a monetary value). But the psychology of the game changes when there is cash involved. Because we have a connection to money and a fear of losing it, poker players will often play differently based on the stakes involved.

Even though Maguire et al have plenty of money in their bankroll, no one likes to lose something of value and that often makes people play and react differently. This would have certainly been the case during Bloom’s home games.

Had the famous faces been swapping peanuts instead of hundred dollar bills, it’s likely Bloom wouldn’t have described Maguire as “moody”. However, because money often brings out raw emotions, it made Spiderman a super competitive monster by all accounts.

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“Director’s chair on Broadway” (CC BY 2.0) by Gary Soup

Sorkin’s Script to do the Talking

Molly’s Game will obviously focus on more than poker. Indeed, there’s the fact Bloom was something of a femme fatale but there’s no doubt Sorkin will place a lot of emphasis on this aspect of the story.

Indeed, if you cast your mind back to The Social Network you’ll remember that a large part of the script focused on the tension between Mark Zuckerberg and his former business partner, Eduardo Saverin.

In fact, for those who know poker, the interactions between Zuckerberg and Saverin become more fraught as their working relationship deteriorates and one side is constantly trying to get the upper hand over the other.

Sorkin’s dialogue (like the exchange below) in The Social Network is a testament to his ability to highlight emotional interactions between characters:

Eduardo Saverin: 25 minutes late!

Mark Zuckerberg: He founded Napster when he was 19, he can be late.

Eduardo Saverin: He’s not a god.

Mark Zuckerberg: Then what is he?

Eduardo Saverin: He’s 25 minutes late.

This is something he’ll no doubt use to his advantage in Molly’s Game as it will be the subtle comments and quips that not only define the poker scenes but also the film as a whole. Poker is a game full of emotions, especially when there’s real money involved. That’s why Molly’s Game could be a surprise hit when it’s eventually released.

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