Playing It Cool
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Romantic comedies are often criticized for being brainless and predictable—and full of the same old clichés. And while director Justin Reardon’s rom-com debut, Playing It Cool, is certainly predictable and clichéd, that’s really all just a part of the film’s wacky rom-com fun.

Playing It Cool follows a blocked writer (Chris Evans) on a quest for inspiration. Though he’s been hired to write a romantic comedy, he has absolutely no experience with love—until he meets the woman of his dreams (Michelle Monaghan). But after spending the evening laughing and joking with her at a charity event, he discovers that she has a serious boyfriend (Ioan Griffudd).

Determined to forget about her and move on, he carefully follows his friends’ outlandish advice—but nothing works. So he sets out to find this perfect mystery woman—to see if he’s got a chance with her.

Like almost any romantic comedy, Playing It Cool is loaded with rom-com clichés. The story is formulaic and entirely predictable. But, in a way, that’s exactly the point. The main character is trying to find the inspiration to write a ridiculous romantic comedy—and, in the process, he gets caught up in a ridiculous romantic comedy of his own. Is it unrealistic? Definitely. Is it surprising? Not really. But it’s exactly what it’s supposed to be: silly and self-aware.

At the same time, though, it isn’t really the story that makes the movie; it’s everything else. A rom-com is often made by its lovable leads, its quirky sidekicks, and its easy-going sense of humor—and Playing It Cool has all of the above. In his role as the heartsick writer, Evans shows that he doesn’t need superpowers to be a charming lead. And he’s surrounded by a massive ensemble cast of amusing supporting characters—especially the outspoken misfits of his tight-knit writers’ group. As they spout off advice about both writing and romance, they make some clever observations—and some completely off-the-wall ones, too.

Admittedly, the film has so many quirks that it sometimes seems overambitious and overcrowded with ideas. It simply tries to cram too much silliness (and too much cleverness) into one little movie—and while much of it pays off, it can also feel unfocused and more than a little bit spastic.

Playing It Cool isn’t the kind of movie that you see for its original story or complex characters. It’s simply a fun little film with a likable cast and plenty of entertaining surprises. And if you’re a fan of quirky rom-coms, that’ll be enough to make it good for some brainless entertainment on a Friday night.

Ed. Note: Playing It Cool is currently showing in select theaters, but it’s also available on demand through services like Amazon Instant Video.

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