<Review by: Sailesh Ghelani>
Directed by Gabriele Muccino. Starring Gerard Butler, Jessica Biel, Noah Lomax, Uma Thurman, Catherine-Zeta Jones, Dennis Quaid, Judy Greer
This film has gotten some god-awful reviews and I might agree with some of what’s written in them. But I can’t get myself to hate Playing For Keeps because though it pans out pretty formulaic it’s still a tad different from the regular saccharine rom-coms that Hollywood churns out.
Director Gabriele Muccino gave us films like the touching The Pursuit of Happyness and the weird Seven Pounds (both starred Will Smith). In Playing For Keeps he sets us up with a down and out ex-soccer champion called George (Gerard Butler) whose family has left him because he didn’t have time for them and he was a bit of a Casanova. So wife Stacie (Jessica Biel) and son Lewis (Noah Lomax) live with a new guy. George is still in town though and he starts coaching his son’s soccer league. And… well you just know their all gonna get back together again right? Yeah, they so are. Okay, so now that’s out of the way.
So George is this big beefy soccer player with an Irish accent and all the soccer moms can’t resist him. So one after another you have them hitting on him, like literally throwing themselves onto him, stalking his phone machine and the guesthouse where he stays. And yeah, you can’t blame the guy for sleeping with some of them. But not all, oh no. He has his principles. Like in this one case the soccer mom played by Uma Thurman, her hubby Carl (Dennis Quaid) is a bit of scumbag, but a rich one who showers money and favours on George to get his kids better positions in the ball game. He can’t sleep with her now can he? Catherine-Zeta Jones’s character, sure why not!
A lot of reviews have this word for this film in them: misogynistic. Yeah, they say it’s like derogatory to women. I’m like, if it were a girl who was being hit on, they’d say, ‘good for her, women’s lib, independent woman’. But since the guy is sleeping with all these horny housewives, it’s like oh no, he’s bad, the film is bad cause it shows us that housewives actually have needs and are attracted to tall, dark Irishmen, which would never, ever happen. Yeah right.
Every time you think the film will go one way, it goes another and then it doubles back to where you expected it to be. Well not that unpredictable then. Sure an actor like Uma Thurman is a bit wasted in the film but nowadays Hollywood seems to be going independent (read: we don’t have the money!). Judy Greer as the desperate mom who shows George her dating profile on the internet and then sleeps with him to boost her self-confidence is hilarious.
The critics who ask why on earth Stacie (Biel) would go back to the fornicating George should take a look at real life relationships that are far worse than this situation. Hello, she sees him bonding beautifully with her son, he’s a hot guy with an Irish accent and sure he was sleeping around (while he was single) but now he’s giving up his job with ESPN in another city to be with them. You’re saying you wouldn’t take him back? Strange critics!
Oh and the scenes with Butler and Lomax bonding as father and son are pretty touching and awesome: like the one where he lets his son drive the Ferrari Carl has loaned him. Carl, that is Dennis Quaid, is superb in his role. Sleazy and yucky, almost foisting his wife on George and then of course warning him that he has her followed, this character is so much fun that you wish he was there more in the second half of the movie. Don’t go expecting much and you won’t mind Playing For Keeps.