Movie Review - Playing It Cool

In between playing Captain America in the various Marvel Studios movies, Chris Evans has been doing quite a few, independent films. If I had to guess why he did this movie, it's probably because this movie was written by Chris Shafer and Paul Vicknair, the two scribes who penned Evans' directorial debut.

This film, directed by Justin Reardon, has Evans narrating this story of a love-sick screenwriter trying to put together a romantic-comedy script, Evans' character is never given a name, so I'll refer to him as the Narrator. He's love-sick over a woman he meets at a charity event. The woman also doesn't get a name, but she's played by Michelle Monaghan, and I'll simply refer to her as the Woman.

It's weird that the writers didn't give the Narrator a name. I understand that he's a writer who likes to imagine himself as other people or as other identities, so not naming him is a quirky move, or else a lazy one. Not naming the Woman is weird too. It's purposeful because the Narrator falls for her but doesn't learn her name and spends the first reel searching for her at that disadvantage, but, after finding her, not giving her a name is just silly.

The supporting cast is good. In fact, all the actors are great, but they're not well-developed. They're more or less a peanut gallery, there just to comment on the Narrator's love life. They never feel like fully-fleshed people. They're either distractions or padding to a very, thin, romantic tale that ddin't have a lot of meat.

Aubrey Plaza (Parks and Recreation) and Martin Starr (Silicon Valley) are basically doing variations of the characters on their respective TV shows. Luke Wilson (Legally Blonde and Old School) is a great presence but he too is not much more than set-dressing. He's identified as a graphic artist, but he could be a serial killer for all that we learn about him. I get that some characters who are just friends function as just a chorus or backup singers, but when you have actors as good as these, it's a waste.

Anthony Mackie plays Bryan, the Hollywood agent who represents the Narrator. Mackie is good, but it feels like the actor doing a favor to Evans with whom he co-starred in Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014). Ioan Gruffudd plays another nameless character but referred to as "Stuffy." He's the boyfriend of the Woman. Gruffudd is good too, but he co-starred with Evans in Fantastic Four (2005) and again is probably just a favor being pulled.

There are cameos from Ashley Tisdale (High School Musical) and Matthew Morrison (Glee), and the appearances of all the other actors are almost self-same. They seem to exist only because they're famous friends of Evans rather than because they have something specific to bring to the role or this movie.

That being said, Shafer and Vicknair's script does have some interesting gender-bending moments. Evans cross-dresses in this film. He's literally in drag in one moment. Topher Grace (That 70s Show) co-stars as Scott, a friend of the Narrator and aspiring author, who might be gay. Scott becomes like a younger brother to the Narrator, which is ironic because Chris Evans' real-life, younger brother is named Scott and Scott Evans is gay. Scott Evans has a brief role in this film, but he really he should have had Topher Grace's part.

The remainder of the movie unfolds in typical, rom-com fashion. It ends with the cliche of a guy racing to stop a wedding. It was better done in The Graduate (1967). It's rather lackluster here. It's redeemed ever so slightly by Evans' handsomeness and charm, but it's only ever so slightly.

Two Stars out of Five.
Rated R for language and sexual content.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 35 mins.


Popular Posts