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Aaron Sorkin takes charge for the entertaining ‘Molly’s Game’

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Chastain and Elba go to court.
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Three and a half stars

Molly's Game Jessica Chastain, Idris Elba, Kevin Costner. Directed by Aaron Sorkin. Rated R. Opens Monday in select theaters.

As a screenwriter, Aaron Sorkin tends to make his presence known regardless of whom his collaborators are, even big-time directors with strong artistic visions like David Fincher (The Social Network) or Danny Boyle (Steve Jobs). So Sorkin finally taking on directorial duties himself for Molly’s Game is less about making his voice heard than about making sure nothing gets in his way. There’s no distracting visual style here to obscure Sorkin’s words, which are often delivered in huge chunks of voiceover by a fierce Jessica Chastain as the movie’s title character.

But those words are as smart and witty as ever, and Chastain’s Molly Bloom is a prime Sorkin protagonist, a type-A overachiever in both academics and athletics (as a former Olympic-level skier) who makes millions of dollars running underground poker games for celebrities and the ultra-wealthy. Based on the real-life Bloom’s memoir, the movie charts her rise and fall (after being indicted for connections to the Russian mob), and is more entertaining at its dizzying heights than at its sometimes heavy-handed emotional lows. With no one holding him back, Sorkin lets his writing do the talking, and his words (delivered passionately by Chastain and Idris Elba, among others) carry the movie.

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