With Molly's Game, Aaron Sorkin has written and directed a lead female role that's both powerfully verbose and cautiously thoughtful. As poker champ Molly Bloom, Jessica Chastain seems at times to be both the lead and her own supporting actor in this story, as she oscillates between traditionally feminine and masculine modes of behavior, sometimes inhabiting both at once. Yes, there are some Sorkinese dialogical flourishes that'll have you checking your watch, and -- wow -- lots of unnecessary cleavage shots, but these demerits are made up for by Chastain's performance (and the absorbing charm of Idris Elba as lawyer Charlie Jaffey).
Sorkin has adapted the real Bloom's autobiography, and her drift of mind is fascinating enough that the frequent voiceover narration is engaging, especially performed by Chastain. Hell, if I ever write a book, please God let her record the audio version. The film finds Bloom in Hollywood, working with Dean Keith (Jeremy Strong), a misogynistic industry type. He throws a bag of bagels at Molly's head, which she instinctively dodges. In that moment, it's clear how Molly has continually adapted to the whims of hotheaded or forceful men. You can't change the man who will throw bagels at your head, but you can duck and react and outsmart him.
Dean quickly realizes he has a woman willing to deal with his outbursts and orders her to start running his poker games at the Cobra Club. As she picks up the game like a pro, Sorkin gives us the kind of hot-shot-brilliant-mind montage we rarely see with a female character.