Jessica Chastain in Molly’s Game (Photo: STX)

★★★ (out of four)
DIRECTED BY Aaron Sorkin
STARS Jessica Chastain, Idris Elba

As a writer, Aaron Sorkin has been such an important and enduring fixture on the film and TV fronts (Oscar for The Social Network, Emmys for The West Wing) that it’s a wonder he waited this long before making his directorial debut. Then again, perhaps he was just biding his time waiting for the right project: Why soil his reputation on a Paul Blart: Mall Cop sequel when something better could be right around the corner?

In this case, that “something better” is Molly’s Game, with Sorkin not only directing but also penning this adaptation of Molly Bloom’s exhaustively titled book Molly’s Game: From Hollywood’s Elite to Wall Street’s Billionaire Boys Club, My High-Stakes Adventure in the World of Underground Poker. As Molly, a former skier whose legendary poker games made her an FBI target, Jessica Chastain delivers a typically brainy and impassioned performance, with Idris Elba offering solid support as the lawyer who elects to take her case.

Most year-end holiday movies are logically geared toward families and kids, but here’s one made just for grown-ups seeking some respite from seasonal servitude.

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