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Pick a card, any card. MOLLY'S GAME ( Movie Review )

Only 52 to choose from, you know. They're shuffled well, and no one's marking them, so you never know what you might draw. A three? Jack? Ace? Who knows? Every card game is a game of chance, when you get right to it. It doesn't matter if you're playing solitaire or crazy 8s or Texas hold 'em. Your fate turns on the turn of a card.

Then again, the phrase if you play your cards right became a cliché for a reason.

Molly Bloom began with a solid hand. Her father pushed Molly hard in everything she did—pushed her, in fact, almost into the Olympics as a freestyle skier. She grew up in a relatively stable home with no obvious disadvantages. She has a couple of aces in her hand, too: her obvious smarts and her unflagging drive. Success is hers for sure.

Then Molly draws her next card: a scary fall during the Olympic tryouts—one that could've easily snapped her surgically repaired spine. She survives. She recovers. But her Olympic dreams vanish.

She gets to choose her next card: Law school? Not just yet. "I wanted to be young for a while in warm weather," she says. So she goes to Los Angeles and takes a job as a waitress at a booming night club, encouraging twice-loaded patrons to spend freely. She grabs another gig as an office assistant. Both are just meant to pay the bills and bide her time before she settles into a real career.

Molly draws a wildcard next: Dean Keith. He sees her charisma, her talent, her drive and offers her a job as his personal assistant. And even though Dean's a lousy boss and a terrible person, he does introduce Molly into a little business wrinkle of his: a high-stakes poker game he runs out of L.A.'s Viper Lounge, one attended by a legion of deep-pocketed businessmen, sports figures and celebs. Could she help him run the game, Dean asks?

Molly arrives in her best dress—she bought it for $88 at J.C. Penney—and collects $10,000 from every poker player who walks through the doors. Dean asks the players to tip her at the end of the night and, just like that, she's $3,000 richer. (Spend it on a new dress, Dean suggests.)

So it goes for weeks and months.

It wouldn't last, of course. It couldn't. Molly was paid to be charmingly efficient, but Dean's butter-soft ego wouldn't allow Molly to be too charming, too efficient. And one day, he makes the call that Molly always knew he'd make.

"You're unimportant," he spits. "You're fired."

A tough card, to be sure, but the game's not over. Molly still has a face card to play. She has numbers for all of Dean's regular gamblers in her phone. She sends one simple text to them all: There's a new game in town. Buy in? $50,000.

Dean tried to cut Molly out. Molly cuts him out instead. She's running the show: She has all the cards, all the chips, all the players. It's Molly's game now.

Or so it would seem. But sometimes, early successes can lead to big failures as the game wears on. What seems like a winning hand could end up losing the pot.

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