Throughout her film career, Jessica Chastain has served in the CIA to take down one of the most wanted terrorists, saved hundreds of people and animals during the German invasion of Warsaw, and solved the equation of gravity to prevent the extinction of the human race. Her latest role is Molly Bloom in Aaron Sorkin’s directorial debut Molly’s Game, which not only fulfills Chastain’s goal of playing well-written women, but also sheds light on the different ways women in and out of Hollywood struggle with patriarchal society.
Women in a man’s world
Molly’s Game premiered in US theaters last Christmas, and the film takes viewers through the stranger-than-fiction tale of how Bloom went from a promising Olympic hopeful to the mastermind of the world’s largest high-stakes illegal gambling ring.
W Magazine interviewed the two-time Oscar-nominated actress, who described Bloom’s journey as an examination of what a woman must do to succeed in a male-dominated society. She explained that not only did she learn the rules of poker and how to run a successful gambling den, but also, “Molly really starts to transform into this idea of what a woman has to be in order to be heard.” The skirts got shorter as the hair grew longer; necklines went lower as the heels got higher.
The role was an entirely new type of woman for Chastain, and she admitted that the costumes she specifically requested for the role were impossibly tight and uncomfortable. These gave her an idea of just what Bloom herself had to go through to find power in a society where men make all the rules. She notes that media representation of Bloom has been designed to make her simply an object of desire on a tabloid, which is negated by the film’s exploration of her agency and power. An enormous force on screen as well as in real life, Chastain is a staunch feminist and lauds the film’s portrayal of this struggle as a departure from movies typically portraying passive women.
A place at the poker table
Of particular note for Chastain was the fact that the critically acclaimed writer Sorkin could have picked any other story for his directorial debut, but chose to make his first film also his first project with a female lead. Chastain shares that although Sorkin has been criticized in the past for his problematic portrayal of women, “He decided to write about this woman and her fight against the patriarchy. That shows his growth as an artist.”
In truth, the film traces how Bloom struggled with the patriarchy at every arena of her life. This is especially challenging in the world of poker, which has long been a male-dominated sport. Partypoker states that etiquette is essential to keep the game fun and challenging, but what happens when the men at the table are drunk on power and refuse to follow them? Bloom had to deal with a variety of rude and unsavory characters with a cool head and tantalizing smile. But this, like her other struggles with patriarchy and misogyny, took its toll on her. There are the wishes of her overbearing, perfectionist father and the men at the poker table, whose whims dictate all the rules and where the money goes. Then finally, you see it in the Russian mob and the government, on whose hands Bloom’s fate lies.
Outside of the story, the film itself comes at a time when women in Hollywood are beginning to speak out about gender-related injustices, from the wide gender pay gap to long-term sexual abuse. Molly’s Game is already unique in the sense that it features the struggles and growth of a woman when most films revolve around white men.
Because of this, Chastain remains optimistic about women in the industry in the years to come. The thespian told Deadline, “Now, we’re more in control of our audiences, and I think the more that [women] support each other, and amplify the voices of those that are coming forward with injustices, we can work together to create an industry of healing.”
What are your thoughts on this time of reckoning in Hollywood, and the role Molly’s Game is playing in it? – The Binge
Photos courtesy of STX Films.