Thursday, December 18, 2014

Review of PLAYING IT COOL: Reluctantly Romantic

December 17, 2014

We won't even know their names. "Me" (the Narrator) is a movie scriptwriter who gets assigned to write a script for a rom-com. He does not exactly have an easy time writing this since he has not really been in love. Then one day, our reluctant romantic meets "Her", the ideal girl of his dreams. However, she happened to be already engaged to a "Stuffy" guy. With his circle of friends around him giving him "sage" advice, will our Narrator get his script written. and win Her over in the end?

The script of "Playing It Cool" by Chris Schafer and Paul Vicknair is smart and witty as modern rom-coms go, chock-full of nuggets of armchair "wisdom" about the relationship between men and women. Under its original title of "A Many Splintered Thing," this script actually found itself into the Black List, a yearly survey of the "most liked" (though not necessarily "best") motion picture screenplays not yet produced. Other famous graduates of this Black List were "Slumdog Millionaire," "The King's Speech," "Argo," and "American Hustle." Admittedly, this one is not exactly at those levels though.

"Me" was played by Chris Evans, whom I have not seen as a regular guy onscreen for a long time since he began donning superhero costumes. After seeing him in all these major action films, it took a while to get used to seeing him playing an ordinary lovestruck guy. He gets to wear various costumes as his imagination runs with various characters, including a female one. He was actually quite good as this charmingly unsure character, sweet-talking not only to his co-star, but also to his female fans in the audience.

"Her" was played by the very attractive Michelle Monaghan, whom I only remember as the female love interest in action films like "Mission: Impossible 3" and "Source Code". This girl really has an arresting presence, you would not wonder why Evan's character falls hard for her. The two of them look good together and have a smart chemistry between them that makes this screen romance work.

The supporting actors (Topher Grace, Aubrey Plaza, Luke Wilson) playing the Narrator's unconventional writer friends add a lot of color in the story as they discuss his love problem from different points of view. Evans was actually reunited with his a couple of his fellow Marvel superhero buddies here. "Mr. Fantastic" Ioan Gruffudd was funny as he plays Her's fiancee Stuffy. "Falcon" Anthony Mackie was sleazy as he plays Bryan, the Narrator's manager with a thing for Malaysian women. Matthew Morrison and Ashley Tisdale have cameos as the actors in the rom-com Evans was trying to finish.

In his full-length feature film debut as director, Justin Reardon was fortunate to have gathered an impressive cast of young actors to bring the crackling script to life. It is still a rom-com though, not exactly my thing, but this is not bad. It still follows the same basic formula though that we have seen time and again. However, there was interesting storytelling technique, crisp cinematography, snappy dialogue, and quirky visuals to keep audiences' attention up to that final romp across San Francisco at the end. 6/10.

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