If Wonder Woman was our cinematic feminist icon of 2017, then 2018's go-to powerhouse lady butt-kicker of the movies has got to be Molly Bloom, as played by Jessica Chastain in Molly's Game (casting: Francine Maisler). The film, out now, is quick-witted and smart, thanks to a script and directorial debut from Aaron Sorkin, and is one of those stories that makes you want to stand out and shout, "Yes!, Get it, girl!" every time Molly manages to overcome a hardship thrown at her, get even with a man who tries to take her down, or successfully battles her adversaries. Molly may not have a cape, a golden lasso, or those bullet-deflecting wrist shields, but she's still a superhero. And as you head into 2018 having endured one hell of a year prior, let Molly Bloom be your inspirational, feminist guide.
Molly's Game tells the story of how Bloom, a former downhill skier with Olympic dreams, became the "Poker Princess," a tabloid staple and a highly successful businesswoman. After a career-ending accident on the slopes, followed by stints as a waitress and unappreciated assistant, Bloom started running high-stakes poker games in Los Angeles and New York where celebrities, professional athletes, and millionaires threw down wads of cash week after week, while Molly got richer and richer and her game became all the more exclusive — and trouble started to form. Bloom detailed her experiences (and her eventual downfall) in her memoir, Molly's Game: The True Story of the 26-Year-Old Woman Behind the Most Exclusive, High-Stakes Underground Poker Game in the World. Combine Sorkin's mile-a-minute script and biting dialogue combined with Chastain's slow burn gaze make Molly's Game one heck of a compelling, female-centric drama.
As a woman in the historically male-dominated world of poker and gambling, Molly encounters loads of alpha-bro sexism and misogyny. Her boss Dean berates her over insignificant things and constantly second guesses her intelligence. When she hosts her first poker game for him, the only piece of "constructive criticism" he has for her is, "Ugly dress. Ugly shoes." So Molly begins to use her feminine wiles to her advantage, dressing in outfits that she knows the male poker players will like and speaking to them flirtatiously. A woman using her sexuality to get ahead, be it through her clothing, her mannerisms, or her flirting, is always going to be a hot button issue for some, but it's Molly's choice completely, and she seems confident and proud of her prowess.
And it works. Small spoilers ahead! Over and over again, Molly gets burned by the seemingly never-ending male ego, but she takes it all in stride — and expertly plots her revenge. When Dean tries to pull some nonsense about not paying her at the office anymore because she's making too much at the game, Molly pulls the rug out from under him and lures his players to her own game. When Player X, an uppity player at her new game screws her over again, Molly declares how tired she is of feeling "powerlessness at the unfair whims of men," and takes her game east to New York, drawing in even richer and more powerful players. Her addiction, Molly says, became "control of powerful men."
Molly herself becomes banker, bankroller, and game runner, utilizing her connections at various hotels and within certain communities to start her own game at luxury locations like The Plaza. She enlists three women to start recruiting for her game at various high-end locations and for a percentage of the tips. She hires a woman dealer whose eye for cheaters and skilled hands are unmatched. By surrounding herself with women in her employ and building up a ton of trust among them, Molly puts other women in positions of power and creates and all-female force determined to damn the patriarchy.
Of course, this all comes crashing down. Since Molly's Game is based on a true story, we know that Bloom is eventually arrested for running an illegal gambling operation, though her lawyer, played by Idirs Elba in the movie, manages some slight of hand of his own, with Molly avoiding jail time. But what's inspiring about Molly's Game is how time and time again the heroine manages to get back up and fight when she's knocked down by men who would rather she "know her place" and try to keep her from her own power.
It's a remarkably timely story that resonates strongly as we head into 2018. Let's face it, women have had a tough year. After the Trump administration became a reality on Inauguration Day, women around the world declared that we wouldn't be silenced or intimidated by participating in the multiple women's marches across the globe. Later in the year, once multitudinous sexual misconduct accusations came to light in Hollywood, women began fighting back and telling their stories. And it got hard, really hard, to learn more about each and every instance of harassment, assault, or rape as the news grew and grew. We all left 2017 a little defeated.
But ladies, the fight isn't going to stop. Which is why Molly's Game is such an inspiring watch, with lessons of resilience we can all take into the year ahead.