Playing It Cool

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Film – Playing It Cool
Cast – Chris Evans, Michelle Monaghan, Anthony Mackie, Topher Grace, Aubery Plaza, Luke Wilson, Martin Starr, Philip Baker Hall and Ioan Gruffudd
Director – Justin Reardon
Rating – **1/2

Playing It Cool

For the Indian audience, the saddest parts of “Playing It Cool” are the numerous muted moments imposed by the Indian censor Board. The one-to-many blanks in an intense scene simply take away the joy of viewing.

That apart, this frothy, quirky rom-com starts off on a rocky keel with its unique style of narration. It is a boy meets girl story. Here, Chris Evans is the narrator of the tale. Fraught with cynicism, he plays an action screenwriter forced to write a rom-com for Bryan (Anthony Mackie) and through his journey as a writer, he weaves in his personal life.

He tells us of his views on romance and his numerous escapades, which usually end with the girl confiding in him, “I love you,” and his blatant response, “I don’t see myself feeling the same way about you.” And obviously these ended on a disastrous note.

To make matters worse, his set of friends — Scott, Lyle, Samson and Mallory — are of no major help.

Then, one fine day at a charity dinner, he meets “Her” (Michelle Monaghan). Sparks fly, the electrifying current of romance ignites within him. He is smitten by “Her”. But before he can advance any further, she is whisked away by her boyfriend, Stuffy (Ioan Gruffudd).

Stranded and not knowing anything about her, he is ready to give up till he is cajoled by his grandfather with, “What kind of man are you? You don’t even fight for the girl you love.”

So, like in Cinderella, he begins his search for his love by attending charity functions, till he finds her. After finding her, they go out on a “friend date”. And all through he pretends to play it cool by being “just friends”.

On the performance front, Chris Evans is charming and relatable. So is Michelle Monaghan. They make a lovely pair. But, unfortunately, there is a lacuna in their onscreen chemistry which haunts them throughout.

All the other supporting characters are flat, one dimensional characters. The cast doesn’t offer anything to make their personas outstanding.

The script contains all the tropes of a romantic comedy, which may seem cliched. But it is the treatment in the screenplay which adds to the novelty factor. It is the intercuts of the narrator’s voiceover and his alter-ego in a black suit framed in a sepia tone that makes the narration interesting. It is over a period of time that the film settles as a charming entertainer.

The dialogues are taut, sprinkled with witty one-liners, they impart the required punch. A few metaphors describing lifecycle are beautifully integrated to add poignant moments to the narration. This is evident during the scene, where the two of them are strolling on the beach watching the waves. Michelle tells Chris, how she is intrigued by the clashing of the waves. She elaborates: “Two waves travel a lifetime to meet and clash and gradually merge to be one, to start their lifecycle again, with a fresh new beginning.”

With less of action between the protagonists and more of discerning analysis of the emotion, “love”, the script only surfs through the subject. Romance, “an adventurous risk”, is tackled theoretically and thus, loses its focus occasionally. Also, the climax ends on a weak note, hence the film does not create or leave an impact on the viewers.

On the technical front, the film has a smug tone. It is packed with fantasy elements, back stories, live action, along with animation and computer generated effects. There are also obvious plot twists and narrative leaps in time and location which makes, aPlaying It Cool’ a predictable fare.

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