Review: Playing It Cool
Hampered by own its constructs, Playing It Cool is more inane than fun, more familiar than refreshing, trying to subvert the rom-com genre by falling victim to its cliches.
Chris Evans thankfully proves rather charming as our narrator and lead, a well-off screenwriter frustrated with the way in which romance plays out in the movies. The cliches he rattles off in the beginning are points of contention, and maybe also bits of foreshadowing.
His goofy group of friends, led by Topher Grace and buoyed by Aubrey Plaza, are available to offer their thoughts on love, sex, and marriage as needed by our cynical lead, with comedic results and little insight. Our narrator has a manifestation of his heart that follows him around (it’s Evans, but suited, chain-smoking, and wearing a fedora); his friends may as well be imaginary too as they each fill simple character boxes.
For reasons unknown, his world changes when he meets the most beautiful woman in red ever (Michelle Monaghan). He tells us he loves her as they banter at a charity dinner, but when she leaves with her boyfriend, our suddenly romantic lead has found new inspiration and some momentary heartbreak.
What follows are the standard rom-com tropes of various story lines condensed in one film. We’ve the part where he seeks her out amid a whole city of women; where the two try to become friends without letting attraction get in the way; where they have a falling out; where he tries to reunite with her in dramatic fashion, because surprise, her boyfriend is moving things along.
Playing It Cool, a ridiculous title to be sure, wants to have it both ways: claiming movie love is unrealistic by following the formula of movie love. Oh, and all of this happens while our screenwriter has been given a huge opportunity to get paid and write a movie himself: a standard studio rom-com.
It’s not all for naught; Evans is a more likable character than he should be, what with the lying to impress the girl and getting drunk and possessive. The supporting cast has its charms (including Luke Wilson), while our imaginative writer’s tangents offer some laughs, putting himself in every love story he hears.
The fact though that the two leads, among others, aren’t credited with names (they are Him and Her), subverts its intention. It’s doesn’t hint to the universality of love; it stresses instead that this is all familiar and the characters and stories are interchangeable.
Playing It Cool has some charm, but mostly serves as an inoffensive offering that is less for the cynics and more for the secret romantics out there.