By: Addison Wylie
Playing It Cool has its cake and eats it too, and knows damn well what it’s doing. However, director Justin Reardon is no David Wain or Charlie Kaufman, and Playing It Cool is nowhere near as clever as They Came Together or Adaptation.
Reardon ventures into feature films with this smug rom-com send-up involving a bitter screenwriter (played by Chris Evans) who is given the task of writing a romantic comedy. He doesn’t know the first thing about love, and he doesn’t care for romantic comedies. He is aware of all the cliches that litter the genre, but he isn’t aware of is how his life is, in fact, resembling his idea of a rom-com – cliches and all. It’s the type of movie where the audience can picture Playing It Cool’s screenwriters giving each other a lot of high fives.
Adaptation is the king kahuna of subtlety – and brilliantly – becoming the type of movie its criticizing. As for They Came Together, the filmmakers knew the genre inside-and-out and skewed the formula with the right sarcastic attitudes. Playing It Cool knows that average no-brainer romantic comedies are dopey, but insists on delivering one anyways. Reardon’s definition of satire is to reiterate everything he knows is overdone without adding his own spin. The filmmaker is incredibly confused and conceited with his main objective because he’s too busy rewarding his cleverness while his embarrassed actors play dress-up and role play.
When Evans isn’t playing Captain America, he still makes for a charismatic lead in downplayed productions. He even starred in a romantic comedy titled What’s Your Number? opposite Anna Faris – a movie Reardon would rent and scoff at. Funny enough, What’s Your Number? is more interesting than Playing It Cool. Reardon’s debut has the upper hand when dealing with creativity, but What’s Your Number? was more concentrated on its main goal. It wanted to please its audience by “playing it safe”, and it did. Playing It Cool could entertain its audience with another perspective on the genre (much like the underrated Definitely, Maybe did), but it’s too busy trying to impress the audience by showing how many things it can do (much like the overrated (500) Days of Summer).
There are some funny quips within the circle of self-entitled screenwriters Evans’ character surrounds himself with. The friendship they all have with each other feels authentic. The pack is made up by a sensitive Topher Grace, an aloof Luke Wilson, an amusing Martin Starr, and Aubrey Plaza using her knack for dry wit once again. The latter buddy is a nice addition since this proposes a Scott Pilgrim vs. the World reunion for Plaza and Evans. There’s even a weird Fantastic Four reunion between Evans and Ioan Gruffudd, but the less said about Gruffudd’s underdeveloped defensive boyfriend character, the better.
Playing It Cool has all the flare of a project brought to us by first-time filmmakers who are still brushing up on how to – funny enough – play it cool.