Friday, December 7, 2012
Playing for Keeps 
Roger Ebert's review
Playing for Keeps (directed by Gabriele Muccino, screenplay by Robbie Fox) continues a several years long Hollywood trend of producing surprisingly serious (or perhaps even inappropriately serious, if one doesn't realize what one is getting into) "rom-coms."
Let me explain. This film is about a fictional former Scottish soccer star named George (played by Gerard Butler) and his American former wife Stacie (played by Jessica Biel). She had apparently been "swept off of her feet" initially her charming Scottish accented soccer star ex who she met while traveling Europe in her college-student 20s. But had left him some years later after having growing tired of (and increasingly humiliated by) being asked to play the role of a "ball player's wife" in a partied-up social environment that we Americans "across the pond" understand all too well as well: The "ball player's wife" is asked to smile in the stands while her husband "scores" even as she knows that there are at least ten other beautiful women right behind her who're "smiling" at her husband as well ... After some years of this and having a kid with George named Lewis (by film's start 10 years old and played by Noah Lomax), Stacie had packed up her bags and moved back to more sensible/down-to-earth suburban Virginia to start her life anew.
And that she did. We find early in the film that Stacie had found a new, more sensible guy, named Matt (played by James Tupper) whom after three years of living with him (along with her/George's son...) she was now preparing to marry. In the meantime, George's soccer playing career had run its course and the beginning of the film finds him, in his late thirties, having come to Virginia to try to finally reconnect with his kid (and perhaps, of course, with Stacie).
So this then is the setup for this "rom-com." It's not a bad film. But a _light_ "date movie" it certainly is not. I'm not sure I'd want to take children of divorce to it either. And I would be ESPECIALLY CAREFUL with YOUNG CHILDREN of troubled marriages/divorce (honestly, Parents take note ...) because this film plays with emotions in a rollercoaster sort of a way that I'd frankly find cruel when it comes to children actually living such situations.
HOWEVER, as a _serious_ "date movie," for young couples contemplating _growing-up_ and entering into a relationship in a serious way (and that would honestly come to mean a serious, lifelong marital commitment...), I honestly think the film could be excellent because it really shows THE EFFECTS (if still in a "safe" / "detached" sort of way) of _not growing-up_ or taking one's relationships seriously.
I write this because look back at the setup for this film: No matter how this film's plot is resolved (and I'm not going to tell you) _somebody_ in the story is going to get hurt. The only questions are who/how many? and how much?
Yes, there are points of comic relief in the film. During the course of the film, the former soccer star George takes on the task of serving as "coach" for Lewis' little-league soccer team, thus finding himself dealing with an assortment of largely crayon drawn upscale soccer moms / parents -- played by Catherine Zeta Jones, Uma Thurman and Dennis Quaid among others. But even their characters / "stories" are surprisingly sad / pathetic.
So even if the movie does have some laughs, it is fundamentally _not_ a particularly cheerful film. However, if it helps couples to enter into de facto serious relationships _seriously_ then it would be worth the watch. Honestly folks, no one wants to hurt people when we are young, BUT if we take our time growing up ... we will.
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