Thursday, 5 February 2015

Film Review: Playing It Cool



It's nearly Valentine's Day, and that can mean only one thing - rom-coms! My first for the month of February is Playing It Coola cute indie rom-com starring Chris Evans, Michele Monaghan and Aubery Plaza. 

It's about an author (Evans) who struggles to believe in love until he meets the perfect girl (Monaghan) - except, she's already taken. 

This is actually an on-set picture of Inception 2 - they're filming
another rotating corridor scene. 
Evans (whose character is simply named 'The Narrator') writes screenplays for a living - when tasked with penning a romantic comedy, he can't translate his own personal experience because, well, he doesn't have any. Romance and true love have seemingly eluded him up until now and, as a result, his love life is swirling down the drain.

It isn't until he meets Her (Michele Monaghan) that this all starts to change. Through a series of sweet meet-cutes the duo begin to forge a connection, despite the fact she's already engaged to be married to another man (Ioan Gruffudd).

On the whole, Playing It Cool is pretty good if you can get onboard with the offbeat way in which it tries to subvert the romantic comedy genre - for example, at one point, the 'spark' between Evans and Monaghan is literally shown to be a spark of electricity running between their interlocked arms. Is it being ironic, or just plain ridiculous? I wasn't sure, but that's not the only time that the film strays away from convention in a way that makes you smile.

Another example would be Evans' character seeing visions of his 'heart' (a smooth version of himself dressed in a suave suit and fedora) chain smoking in the corner or the way in which the Narrator inserts himself into other peoples anecdotes, like a Korean soap opera that illustrates 'love will always find a way'. There's even a wartime animated sequence and a scene where Evans crossdresses as Aubery Plaza. Seriously, it goes all over the place and I mean this in a good way. It's fun, irreverent and kinetic, very tongue-in-cheek and effortlessly charming.

Topher Grace as Scott, the Narrator's gay best friend.
That's another character archetype checked off the list...
Then again, there are moments where the archetypical rom-com conventions get paraded around. You know the kind of thing I'm talking about - "men and women can't just be friends", "men just want sex, it's the answer to everything" and the old favourite, "women are fools for romance". A lot of these are actual direct quotes spoken by characters, making the use of these cliches even more irritating. It's in these moments that the film slips onto shakier ground.

The ending tries its hardest to steer clear but in the end it shamelessly embraces genre cliches - and whilst I hate to admit it, it's hard to not be buoyed by the rousing finale.

The two leads share some great chemistry and I thought that the dialogue between the two was really well written. Evans, as likeable and charming as ever, carries off the role with ease. On another note - how does he fit all these films in? Between this, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Avengers: Age of Ultron, Snowpiercer and the upcoming Captain America: Civil War he must be working weekends to fit it all in!

Monaghan is equally as sweet, even if her character comes across as just a little too perfect. One complaint I did have is that we didn't see enough of Monaghan's boyfriend, making her disillusionment with him a little forced. Why not show us some of that tension they're going through?

Joining Evans and Monaghan is a supporting cast of names that all interlock to make a great ensemble; Anthony Mackie plays Bryan, the Narrator's agent, whilst Topher Grace plays his friend Scott and Aubery Plaza plays another called Mallory.

Mackie is a riot whilst Plaza (love her or hate her) is her usual deadpan-self - y'know, like she is in everything ever. Does she even act? Or is she just really method? It'd be great if she was actually really bubbly and cheery behind closed doors and the whole moody thing is just an act.

Anyway, Aubery Plaza tangent aside, Playing It Cool is a sweet and sugary indie film with a great cast and some inventive storytelling techniques. It tries it's hardest to navigate genre trapdoors with mixed results - the degree to which you're bothered about this reflects how you probably feel about the rom-com genre in general.

The Verdict: 6/10


Playing It Cool is fun and fresh enough to earn a passing grade, but only just. Evans and Monaghan are a likeable lead duo and the ensemble cast overcome the pratfalls of rom-coms through spades of sass. Watch it purely to see Chris Evans wearing lipstick, a dress and a truly awful wig.

2 comments:

  1. You have such an interesting blog. Thanks for sharing, I enjoyed reading your posts. All the best for your future blogging journey.

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    Replies
    1. Wow, thanks for the kind works mate! Appreciate it :)

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