[Review] – Playing For Keeps

11 Dec

Playing For Keeps

Title: Playing for Keeps
Year: 2012
Director: Gabriele Muccino
Writer: Robbie Fox
Starring: Gerard Butler, Jessica Biel, Uma Thurman, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Dennis Quaid, Judy Greer
MPAA Rating: PG-13, some sexual situations, language and a brief intense image
Runtime: 106 min
IMDb Rating: 5.1
Rotten Tomatoes: 2%
Metacritic: 30

Yes, December’s usually the month in which we get an onslaught of truly remarkable films opening pretty much every single weekend, many times more than a couple of them on the same day, films that are vying to position themselves as the best of the best in order to get some consideration for the upcoming awards season, getting a late-year release date in order to be the freshest in voter’s minds. Yes, that’s true, but for every Lincoln out there there’s something like Playing for Keeps, a film that I’ve just seen and I’ve just forgotten. There can just be no space in my brain designated for a film like this when there are so many great ones just days away from coming out.

Granted, the fact that it’s a romantic comedy with Gerard Butler should have been more than enough to alert me as to the crap that was inevitably to come my way, but this is just so, so bad. It’s bad even when you compare it against your average rom-com, it’s probably even bad when you compare it against rom-coms starring Mr. Butler, which is saying something, it’s a film that possesses not a single iota of intelligence and that seems to have been made by bored and distracted actors just to cash in a paycheck. Not to mention that, to be quite honest, I don’t think even women, the film’s target audience, will like this one because it always felt kind of misogynist to me, actually.

The story is that of George, a “charming” down-on-his-luck former professional soccer star who comes back home in order to try and redeem himself and get his life back on track. Just from that sentence you probably know exactly how this one’s going to play out, and you’re probably right on the money. He’s trying to reconnect with his son and to do so accepts the gig at coaching the kid’s soccer team. Apparently you’re supposed to find quite funny that his attempts to become a solid member of adulthood are thwarted by the soccer moms that swoon over him. Blergh.

Now, look, I have nothing against Gerard Butler, but I do believe like he’s at the point in his career in which he’s just accepting whatever role comes his way. Yes, he was in Coriolanus this year, which was brilliant and he was quite good in it, but you could really count the good films he’s been in throughout his career in one hand, and you’d probably have a finger or two to spare. If anything he’s like George a bit, he was in 300 which was a great success but now he’s meandering through life, taking on crappy gigs and being distracted by the superficial things in life.

This is just one lazy and predictable film that’s really quite an embarrassing addition to the resumes of the actors in it. Not to mention that some actors who are here are ones I actually quite like, though granted most of them have been churning out mediocre work for at least a few years and seem unable to catch a break.  However, there’s also Judy Greer who’s otherwise been having an awesome last few years (her performance in last year’s The Descendants was remarkable) and yet she’s also here. She deserves better.

Ms. Greer as the divorcé who lusts after George joins Uma Thurman, as the trophy wife who’s wealthy husband cheats on constantly, Catherine Zeta-Jones, as TV producer who wants in on George’s talents, and Jessica Biel as a girl who’s actually engaged but could also figure into the picture (Ms. Biel’s performance is actually the best thing about this movie). How they’re portrayed here is just so horribly chauvinistic, it feels pathetic and sad and just wrong how these women drag themselves over the floor for the guy, and every woman who respects herself should hate the way her genre’s represented here in Robbie Fox‘s screenplay, which is otherwise still spectacularly incoherent and all over the place. The uneven and uncaring direction of Gabriele Muccino doesn’t really fare any better.

Let me talk about Mr. Butler again for a bit because I don’t want to talk about the actual film any more. 300 is a film I really, really like and I think he was quite good in it, just being this heroic guy with the abs and delivering the awesome speeches and just really owning the role the way it was supposed to be owned. He made his name with that movie and yet every single film he’s made since then has seemed as though he’s been purposefully trying to avoid any resemblance to the role that made him a star.

That’s a very bad decision because it’s meant that we’ve either gotten him in films in which he’s just a psychopath like Gamer or Law Abiding Citizen or in films like this one, romantic comedies in which he’s supposed to be charming and a manly guy with flaws who women drool over. None of it ever works because Mr. Butler’s not a funny guy to begin with. He should stick with what worked for him in the first place, stop making movies like this which seem to have been assembled without any real thought put into it. Thankfully, this one’s bombing at the box office, so maybe actors and studios will finally start to take notice.

Grade: D

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