I’m just going to put this out there: romantic comedies are now really hard to write. I mean, as a creative endeavour, it’s a full-on cliché minefield. To correctly balance all the elements required – chemistry, tension, humour, romance – while avoiding the most well-worn cinematic devices, is monumentally difficult. A fool’s errand, some might say. And yet, still they appear, because still writers try to bring something new and fresh to the genre. Still we buy those tickets, and sit in the dark – hoping to be pleasantly surprised, but knowing we will probably be disappointed.
So, here we are again, with a new trailer for another daring attempt. The film is titled Playing It Cool in this preview, but was previously known as A Many Splintered Thing. Does it achieve the impossible dream? Is this film that most elusive of treasures – that mythic creature that continually slips our collective grasp? Is it a good romcom? Well, let’s see.
The Narrator – for he has no name – is a screenwriter who is only interested in writing action. Having no belief in the concept of ‘love,’ he has no time for writing romance. He thinks it’s all just stuff and nonsense (see what they did there?). Of course, that all changes (because it has to, doesn’t it?) when he meets ‘Her.’ She has no name either, and promptly, reluctantly, he falls in love. But, there’s an obstacle (isn’t there always?) in the shape of her fiancée. Cue the ‘Let’s just be platonic friends, then’ conversations, balanced with ‘But men and women can’t be friends!’ declarations, from the supportive, gender-balanced-yet-platonic group of buddies. Oh, and don’t forget the impassioned speech by our hero at the end.
So, are you keeping count of the clichés? Here’s the thing though – this trailer makes this film look really quite enjoyable, despite the fact that we’ve seen it all before. Why? Because it has an awesome cast. Chris Evans and Michelle Monaghan star as The Narrator and Her. Supporting them are Aubrey Plaza (Safety Not Guaranteed), Patrick Warburton (Family Guy), Ioan Gruffudd (Fantastic Four), Giovanni Ribisi (A Million Ways To Die In The West), Topher Grace (Spider-Man 3), Anthony Mackie (Captain America: The Winter Soldier), Luke Wilson (Middle Men) and Philip Baker Hall (Bad Words). Let’s be honest – this assembled group could read the Phone Book and turn it into something special. But, maybe this already is something special, because this preview shows off some great dialogue – even when dealing with clichés.
Playing It Cool is the feature length debut of director Justin Reardon – which makes such an impressive cast all the more surprising. It would suggest that these seasoned professionals must have seen something very striking indeed in the script. But wait – the script is co-written by Chris Shafer and Paul Vicknair, whose only previous full-length screenplay experience is co-writing (with Ronald Bass and Jen Smolka) Before We Go – the directorial debut of Chris Evans, which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival just recently. Both films are produced by McG (Terminator Salvation). So, although Playing It Cool was actually filmed two whole years ago, maybe the sudden release of the trailer – immediately after the festival premiere of Before We Go – is no coincidence at all.
That apparent marketing strategy really turns this trailer on its head. How bad is this film that they waited two years for the production and premiere of another movie before even releasing a trailer? In that light, the assembled cast is not so much testament to the possible power of the script, and more a testament to the pulling power of mega star Chris Evans. That’s fair enough, though – who doesn’t love watching Chris Evans? Undoubtedly, many will queue to see Playing It Cool when it finally reaches theatres. We don’t know when that is yet, however – so this trailer will have to do in the meantime.