Soundtrack Review: Molly’s Game (2017)

Molly’s Game is a 2017 American crime drama film based on the memoir Molly’s Game: From Hollywood’s Elite to Wall Street’s Billionaire Boys Club, My High-Stakes Adventure in the World of Underground Poker by Molly Bloom. The movie stars Jessica Chastain as Molly Bloom, Idris Elba, Kevin Costner, Michael Cera and Brian D’Arcy, among others. The film follows Bloom as she comes under investigation from the FBI for running underground poker games for Hollywood celebrities, athletes, wealthy businessmen…and the Russian mob. The film was initially screened at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 8th, 2017 and was released to theaters on December 25th, 2017.

The score for Molly’s Game was written by English composer Daniel Pemberton. Pemberton is an Ivor Novello-winning and multiple Golden Globe and BAFTA Award-nominated composer who has been regularly cited as one of the most exciting and original new voices working in modern film scoring today. His bold writing and unusual and innovative arrangements on scores for movies have seen the soundtracks constantly singled out for critical acclaim. Pemberton’s mix of opera and electronics for Danny Boyle’s Steve Jobs (starring Michael Fassbender and Kate Winslet) not only garnered him a Golden Globe nomination for Best Original Score but so impressed writer Aaron Sorkin that Pemberton was invited to score his much anticipated directorial debut, the recently completed Molly’s Game. Pemberton’s recent scores also include: The Man From UNCLE (2015); King Arthur: Legend of the Sword (2017) and All the Money in the World (2017).


From the moment I started listening to the score for Molly’s Game, it instantly sounded familiar to me, though it took some digging before I could pin down the reason why. As soon as I looked up Pemberton’s filmography my eyes jumped to The Man From UNCLE (a film I like every much) which I’d thought of repeatedly while listening to the score for Molly’s Game. It’s very obvious to my ears that these two scores come from the same composer, they have the same…frenetic (for lack of a better word) style with a modern feeling “edge” to the music.

Honestly I still have a hard time describing Daniel Pemberton’s film scores and that’s because they sound so different from what I normally listen to. I think it would be fair to say I’m a bit of a traditionalist when it comes to film music; I like full-bodied symphonic scores a la John Williams, Miklos Rozsa and especially Erich Wolfgang Korngold. And Pemberton’s music, so far as I can tell, is very non-traditional, non-symphonic and just…different. But that’s not a bad thing, not at all! Even though I have a hard time describing this new, modernist style that Pemberton is pushing, I can say for certain that I love what I’m hearing.


Most of the tracks in this score have a similar sound to what I heard in The Man From UNCLE, which is that fast-paced style that ranges between extremely light synthetic rock and electronic dancing music. Some of my favorite tracks in this style included “House of Cards,” “The Russians,” and “Red & Black.” However some, like “Molly’s Dream” and “Scars” are slower, more melodic. I like “Molly’s Dream” in particular because it explicitly features the piano, a marked contrast from the bulk of the score.

If you’ve enjoyed Pemberton’s work up to this point, then his score for Molly’s Game will please you immensely. If you’re unfamiliar with Pemberton’s work, I still think you’ll enjoy it. It’s refreshing to listen to film scores that aren’t loaded to the gills with symphonic instruments and pounding drums. I can’t wait to see what Pemberton brings to the field in the future (his next project is listed as Ocean’s 8, the all-female remake of Ocean’s 11). I hope you enjoyed my thoughts on the score for Molly’s Game. If you’d like to discuss it further, let me know in the comments below 🙂

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