Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Playing It Cool: Movie Review


Forgets the structure of a rom-com and loses the romance and comedy.
Playing It Cool. A generic title for a generic movie. The premise attempts to poke some light fun at all the over-used elements in romantic comedies. Our narrator (Chris Evans) is a screenwriter who has to write a Hollywood rom-com before he can get the job for writing an action movie. But he hates it. He doesn't care about love, romance, nor movies which combine the above with clichés. I was all set for his life to play out exactly like the movie that he's writing that he hates. 2014

Directed by: Justin Reardon

Screenplay by: Chris Shafer, Paul Vicknair

Starring: Chris Evans, Michelle Monaghan

But this was worse than your average romantic comedy. There was very little comedy and the lead characters were completely uncompelling. Early on I found myself much more interested in one of the sidekicks, Scott (Topher Grace). Scott loves romantic comedies, and he loves the idea of romance playing out between opposites who have gay best friends, and make last minute runs to the airport. The narrator (our main protagonist) isn't his opposite, because he's just nothing. Scott's opposite was also very amusing and Samson (Luke Wilson) hates love and hates people who think Romeo & Juliet is romantic. Their conversations were great, but they were relegated to the sidelines because romance had to play out between two very boring people instead.

The movie seemed to insist that it was going to be a romantic comedy void of all the typical clichés of the genre. They didn't use any of the plot devices pointed out in the opening jokes but did use the others that they didn't mention. Trying to be original but unable to actually be original. The dialogue was all about marrying for comfort vs happiness, and debates about whether males and females can have platonic relationships. Nothing that hasn't been said in more interesting ways in better movies. And the characteristics of the leads were also based on romantic comedy platitudes but foregoing the ones that have a purpose.

The typical rom-com tropes, while commonplace, unoriginal and predictable, are also quite useful. They have become clichés because they serve the genre well. The opposites attract rule for protagonists can provide humour, an ex can provide an obstacle, and a last minute run to the airport can provide tension, suspense and humour. And this movie only had that when they actually played according to the rules of the genre, when they followed the structure the romantic comedy is supposed to have.

Images courtesy of VVS Films.
The structure of Playing It Cool really makes it fall apart. The only background given to the main character is why he doesn't fall in love with women. That's it, we know nothing else about him. And then he meets a woman and falls in love. She (Michelle Monaghan) attends charity events for work and has a committed boyfriend. That's it, that's all we know about her. Their meet-cute was charming, and the final big rom-com moment was funny, but everything else was just boring. And the movie would forget that he was writing a screenplay for long stretches at a time, further establishing the lack of structure that this genre needs.

Playing It Cool never seemed sure if they were going to play into the stereotypes or swim against the current, so instead it does nothing. It lets the supporting characters get a few laughs while the leads wallow in boredom with no spark, love, romance or comedy.

Similar Titles:

They Came Together (2014) - Skewers romantic comedies without insulting its fans leading to a very funny comedy.

Authors Anonymous (2014) - A clever, documentary-styled addition to the romantic comedy genre.

Two Night Stand (2014) - From one night stand, to two night stand, to a funny romantic comedye.