September 10, 2017

SHOWBUZZDAILY Toronto Film Festival Reviews: “Molly’s Game” & “I Love You, Daddy”


MOLLY’S GAME (STX):  Aaron Sorkin is a celebrated (or notorious, depending on your point of view) control freak, so it’s surprising that it’s taken him this long to decide to direct his own work.  His first venture as writer/director MOLLY’S GAME is completely assured, not fancy with its visuals but not timid, either.  By Sorkin standards, the text is relatively apolitical:  based on the real Molly Bloom’s own memoir, it’s the story of the rise and fall of a high-stakes poker kingpin–or perhaps queenpin is the better word.  Molly (Jessica Chastain), a one-time championship skier, ran a multi-million dollar game in Los Angeles for 8 years, and when she was deposed from that perch by a nasty heavy-hitter movie star (played by Michael Cera, in a role fictionalized by Bloom but heavily rumored to be based on Tobey Maguire), she ran a bigger one in New York.  Ultimately, though, the FBI showed up and the roof caved in.  Molly’s Game allows Molly to recount her story in a frenzy of walk-and-talks (many of them with her attorney, played by Idris Elba) and nonstop narration, and it’s all gloriously Sorkinian, with explanations of the arcane piled upon verbal one-upsmanships, piled upon statements of weighty principle.  Chastain is a powerhouse, and she and Elba are everything Sorkin could have wanted them to be.  There are colorful supporting roles not just for Cera, but for such terrific character actors as Brian D’Arcy James, Bill Camp and Chris O’Dowd (as players) and Kevin Costner (as Molly’s dad).  Where Molly’s Game comes up a bit short is in its unwillingness to engage with Molly as a character with an inner life other than her relationship with her father, a dimension that a director like David Fincher or Rob Reiner might have caused Sorkin to bring out.  Nevertheless, for any Sorkin fan Molly’s Game is required viewing, 140 minutes of expert dialogue that zip by as fast as Molly on her skis.

I LOVE YOU, DADDY (no distrib):  There’s a lot to unpack from I Love You, Daddy, Louis CK’s first feature film as writer/director since he became a major television auteur.  Shot in creamy black & white 35mm in a glamorous New York that can’t help but bring to mind Woody Allen’s classics, especially Manhattan, it’s a story that features as a major character a nearly 70-year old writer/director genius with a fondness for young women who has been accused of child molestation.  (The hall of mirrors effect is increased by the fact that CK recently worked with Allen on Blue Jasmine, and that CK himself has been accused of having an unsavory private life.)  CK’s own character Glen Topher, a neurotic but hugely successful television producer (not dissimilar from the role Woody Allen played in Manhattan), becomes unnerved when his beloved 17-year old daughter China (Chloe Grace Moretz) gets involved with the director (played by John Malkovich, who it should be noted doesn’t resemble or attempt to play Allen in any way).  The question of what Glen should or shouldn’t do about the relationship shakes his budding romance with a pregnant actress played by Rose Byrne, and his business life with his producing partner (Edie Falco).  I Love You, Daddy, which was shot just 3 months ago and already exists in finished form–a schedule even faster than the famously speedy Allen’s yearly productions–is both ambitious and lazy.  CK wants to be a “real filmmaker,” with nods to classic comedies and a symphonic musical score, but the script too often feels like half a season of Louie episodes strung together.  Charlie Day is around as a character who might as well be named Comic Relief, and Pamela Adlon is delicious as she always in with CK but in exactly the same way she always is with him.  Moretz’s character is a blank much of the time, and Byrne’s is even more of a puzzle.  There are a lot of laughs in I Love You, Daddy, and some pungent scenes as CK’s character comes to terms with being the father of a teenage girl, but many of its themes feel unresolved, and at 123 minutes it needed another edit.  On some level, the film is Louis CK’s declaration that he should be viewed at Woody Allen’s own level, and whatever their personal histories may be, as an artist the disciple is not yet in a league with the master.


About the Author

Mitch Salem
MITCH SALEM has worked on the business side of the entertainment industry for 20 years, as a senior business affairs executive and attorney for such companies as NBC, ABC, USA, Syfy, Bravo, and BermanBraun Productions, and before that, at the NY law firm of Weil, Gotshal & Manges. During all that, he has more or less constantly been going to the movies and watching TV, and writing about both since the 1980s. His film reviews also currently appear on and In addition, he is co-writer of an episode of the television series "Felicity."