After scoring phenomenal box office success with 300, Gerard Butler has taken an interesting turn as seen in his latest, Playing for Keeps.
Sure, he’s had varied roles from P.S. I Love You to last month’s Chasing Mavericks. But, more often than not -- post 300 -- Butler has played the romantic man lead in a rom-com. Unfortunately for him, it wasn’t in projects that honestly worked. Both The Bounty Hunter with Jennifer Aniston and The Ugly Truth where he starred opposite Katherine Heigl were misguided efforts at best.
So, many would ask: Why go right back to rom-coms as Butler is with his portrayal of a retired soccer pro who finds himself trying to reconnect with his son and hopefully, his ex-wife (Jessica Biel)? It is because Butler believes that he is a comic and romantic leading man. And although Playing for Keeps isn’t ideal by any means, it shows that the man knows his wheelhouse, and has gotten closer to fine -- to paraphrase the Indigo Girls.
Playing for Keeps suffers from cliches like the drooling soccer moms who see Butler’s George as one hot piece of meat. The worst of them is Denise (Catherine Zeta-Jones), who is simply trying to get back at her philandering husband. Then there’s the utterly mis-used Uma Thurman who seems to know she’s being put in the most ridiculous of situations.
Surprising us is Biel. She’s sporty and seems like a perfect match for George, yet it’s clear she’s still stung by him. The reason given in the scope of the story doesn’t really give the audience enough to go on emotionally, but Biel actually is a solid foil for Butler’s advances.
What probably helps the film reach beyond the normal and disposable rom-coms of late is the direction by Gabriele Muccino. The helmer of The Pursuit of Happyness certainly knows how to connect the audience to the story onscreen. Robbie Fox’s screenplay is not quite The Pursuit of Happyness in terms of power, but it knows what it is and never tries to color outside the lines.
Our Playing for Keeps review has to close with a piece of encouragement for Butler. Keep at this rom-com thing. Judging by your performance in this, you’re right. There is something there. It’s just not all the way there yet.