Jessica Chastain (‘Molly’s Game’): Oscar bound for Aaron Sorkin drama about high-stakes poker player?

Third time could be the charm at the Oscars for Jessica Chastain, who stars in “Molly’s Game,” a character study by first-time director Aaron Sorkin that premiered on Sept. 8 to rave reviews at the Toronto film festival. Chastain, who lost her  Oscar bids for “The Help” (2011) and “Zero Dark Thirty” (2012), shines in the title role: Molly Bloom, Olympic-class skier who ran the world’s most exclusive high-stakes poker game and became an FBI target.

Sorkin, who won an Oscar for scripting “The Social Network” (2010), adapted Bloom’s bestselling 2014 memoir. Oscar winner Kevin Costner (“Dances with Wolves”) is Molly’s father, psychologist Larry Bloom, while SAG champ Idris Elba (“Beasts of No Nation,” “Luther”) is her lawyer, Charlie Jaffey.

STX is positioning “Molly’s Game” as a key Oscar contender, with its release being rolled out nationwide beginning on Nov. 22. Expect the film to figure in the year-end critics awards, as evidenced by the sampling of rave reviews for Chastain.

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Peter Debruge (Variety): “Molly’s Game” is Chastain’s movie, and she’s demonstrating once again what we’ve seen in everything from “Zero Dark Thirty” to “A Most Violent Year”: No matter how powerful the men around her, Chastain is perfectly capable of being in control — and that’s not to be taken lightly in an industry that provides an alarming deficit of stand-their-ground female role models (even those who are technically breaking the law).

Todd McCarthy (THR): With “Miss Sloane” last year and “Zero Dark Thirty” before that, Chastain is definitely in a moment of playing very hard-edged women without personal lives (Miss Sloane at least had a secret gigolo), and the lack of either this or any female friends (there are only employees) makes one wonder if Molly has truly cut sex, romance and even friends out of her life; there’s no mention or glimpse of any of the above, which makes her feel like an incomplete character. All the same, Chastain roars through the performance with a force and take-no-prisoners attitude that keeps one rapt.

Wendy Ide (Screen International): It seems certain to be a significant awards season player, with Jessica Chastain in particular a near certainty for a clutch of nominations. It’s a role which is familiar territory for Chastain: like her ruthless lobbyist in “Miss Sloane,” Molly Bloom is a woman used to running intellectual rings around the smartest guys in the room. Her addiction, according to her analyst father (Kevin Costner), is having power over powerful men.

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