Movie review: Molly's Game
In all her notable roles, Jessica Chastain has come across asintelligent, bad-ass, iron-willed, sweet even. But sexy?
Not quite. Until now.
Molly's Game introduces us to the "Cinemax version" - a label that pops up more than once in the film - of Chastain, all thick make-up, bodycon mini-dresses and eye-popping cleavage.
Who knew she had a Kardashian in her?
But it isn't just her physical makeover that will make jaws drop. She delivers probably the most empowering performance of her career, winning her a Golden Globe nomination, with an Oscar nod likely.
Chastain is a gifted actress, but she's never been this riveting, the queen among the film's kings and aces.
It helps that Molly's Game is powered by the fascinating real-life tale of a young, whip-smart, self-made woman, a highly driven former ski champion who had her Olympic dreams derailed by a horrific injury, only to detour into the world of exclusive high-stakes gambling, earning her the title of Hollywood's "poker princess" and millions in her bank account.
Through flashbacks, we are privy to Bloom's inner life at all stages of her trajectory, making her a fully fleshed-out character we end up rooting for after initially feeling alienated from, much like how her lawyer (Idris Elba) changes his perception of her over the course of the film.
The card game sequences crackle with energy and tension, the revolving door of players range from dippy to dangerous, and the heartbreaking "therapy session" with her estranged psychologist father (Kevin Costner) at the end will choke you up.
It's entertaining to watch Chastain successfully navigate a male-dominated world - as well as writer-director Aaron Sorkin's sharp, back-and-forth dialogue and extended monologues.
For someone who's so celebrated as a veteran screenwriter (The Social Network, Moneyball, and acclaimed TV series The West Wing and The Newsroom), it's surprising it took this long for him to make his directorial debut.
Molly's Game has a winning hand, and we're all in. (4 ticks)
MOVIE: Molly's Game
STARRING: Jessica Chastain, Idris Elba, Kevin Costner
WRITER-DIRECTOR: Aaron Sorkin
THE SKINNY: Based on the true story of Molly Bloom (Chastain), an Olympic-class skier who ran the world's most exclusive high-stakes poker game for a decade before being arrested by the FBI. Her only ally is her criminal defence lawyer Charlie Jaffey (Elba), who learns there is much more to Molly than the tabloids led the world to believe.
Movie reviews: Call Me By Your Name
CALL ME BY YOUR NAME (R21)
If there is a film that could be described as luscious, this is it.
Based on the 2007 novel of the same name by Andre Aciman and directed by Italian-Algerian film-maker Luca Guadagnino, the beautiful, scenic film is set in 1983 and follows the journey of 17-year-old Elio (Timothee Chalamet) as he falls in love with Oliver (Armie Hammer), an American scholar invited to stay with Elio's family.
Awash in the rich colours of small-town Italy and against the hauntingly beautiful soundtrack by Sufjan Stevens, Elio and Oliver take tentative steps towards each other.
Guadagnino films Oliver in an almost voyeuristic manner, reminiscent of the way Elio looks at him - all stolen glances and nervous glimpses as he contends with his sexual and romantic attraction to Oliver.
And when the two finally consummate their relationship, the happiness they feel as they submit to their desires is palpable.
Hammer is decent, but all accolades should go to Chalamet. The actor, who just turned 22, masterfully encapsulates Elio, often wordlessly - his confusion, frustration, excitement and, in the deliberately drawn-out final scene, heartbreak.
In Elio's eyes, it is clear. Who needs a lifetime when you can have that one glorious summer of surrender, ecstasy and love? - JAN LEE (5 ticks)
Movie reviews: Darkest Hour
DARKEST HOUR (PG)
This Winston Churchill biopic is one of those movies whose greatest strength is also its greatest weakness.
Focusing on the five weeks between Churchill's appointment as Britain's prime minister in 1940 and the end of the Dunkirk evacuation, Darkest Hour is engineered to showcase lead actor Gary Oldman.
His performance is powerful yet nuanced.
He embodies the legendary politician, bringing to life the rough, booming personality that has come to define Churchill's public persona while also deftly handling the smaller moments, such as his self-doubt as his principles are opposed, frustrations at being backed into a corner, humour and love for his family.
Unfortunately, "Look at how awesome Gary Oldman is!" does not make for a memorable film.
The story is mostly forgettable, and the few scenes that stay with you are the bizarre and contrived ones towards the end.
Despite its flaws, Darkest Hour is still worth catching, just to watch a seasoned veteran such as Oldman show you the craft he has practised and perfected over the years. - JAN LEE ( 3.5 ticks)
Still showing in cinemas
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