Review: Playing It Cool Will Actually Make You Dislike Chris Evans
Dear Captain America: you really let me down.
Here’s the thing: I’m a long-time Chris Evans fan. I have been since Sunshine (seriously, if you haven’t seen him in that, you should). He was the ONE reason I thought Iceman was worth looking at. And last year he was definitely the summer’s MVP with Snowpiercer and Captain America: The Winter Soldier. I think he’s an underrated actor who actually can “elevate” some stupid material (I’m looking at you Nanny Diaries, What’s Your Number, and Fantastic Four).
But Playing it Cool is not good, and it did something I never expected: it made me dislike Chris Evans. Not Chris Evans the person (I’m sure he’s a lovely guy); but his character is just called “him” or the narrator, so their attempt to suggest an “everyman” really just makes me think we’re actually watching Chris Evans. Not a good idea when the movie has a really, really unlikable leading character whose main trait is his dislike of women.
Despite marketing this movie as a smart anti-rom-com, the truth is that this is just a cynical rom-com (like That Awkward Moment) written by people who clearly know the genre, but think the genre is beneath them. It’s a trend I DO NOT LIKE. The problem with the romantic comedy genre isn’t the conventions of the genre, it’s the pessimism behind the commercial grabs to produce romantic comedies. You can take the most conventional of romantic comedies and execute it well, and create real chemistry between the characters, and it’s easy to get sucked in. It’s fun to get sucked into those stories. Haphazardly throw two people together with some bad writing, and it doesn’t matter how big the twist on the genre is; you’re making a romantic comedy, so just accept it, do it well, and add a little bit of sincerity.
Unfortunately, Chris Evans and Michelle Monaghan (despite being good actors) have NO chemistry. They smile and flirt, but they lack a genuine spark. The chemistry is so weak, I found myself kind of wanting Monaghan to stay with her fiance, Ioan Gruffudd, and for Evans to get back with Aubrey Plaza, another writer in his group of writer friends, since they actually do have some sizzle.
Here’s the thing about Evans’ writer friends, though: they’re not friends. They may or may not be writers (we rarely see them writing), but Evans, Plaza, Martin Starr, Luke Wilson, and Topher Grace are definitely NOT friends. I don’t even know why Starr and Wilson are in this movie, because they don’t have characters. But (yeah, I have something positive to say about this movie), Grace and Evans do have chemistry as friends – the only chemistry in the movie, in fact. Very little comes of that friendship, but the moments we get are entertaining and even have some emotional realism. As for Evans’s chemistry with his costar from Captain America: The Winter Soldier (remember how good that movie was?) Anthony Mackie – I can’t believe these they are the same actors. But this movie might have actually been made before Winter Soldier got filmed. I don’t know, and I don’t care.
What I know is this movie could not have had a worse marketing campaign. Remember that trailer and poster that Rebecca posted a few months ago? This is that movie. Why did Evans dress as a woman and old Chinese man? Well, they’re fantasy sequences. Fantasy sequences that look cheap and are stupid, and which seem thrown in as an aggressive attempt to distinguish themselves from the typical rom-com. Well, that would be fine if the fantasy sequences were entertaining or well made, or simply made a comment about the nature of stories and fantasy. But these add nothing to the movie and look like weird YouTube sketches.
“Aggressive” is the best descriptor I can give to this movie. It is unpleasantly aggressive for a movie that wants to be a comedy, because it isn’t an easy watch. It feels like the filmmakers made something to appease an audience they don’t like. There is no affection for these characters, or comment about a bigger idea on love, fantasy, or commitment. If you want your character to have a fear of commitment, I don’t know why he also has to be such a misogynist. They aren’t one in the same, and in my experiences, the misogyny thing is best solved before you try to commit yourself to a woman. I wish someone would have mentioned that to the writers of this stupid, unpleasant movie.
Lesley Coffin is a New York transplant from the midwest. She is the New York-based writer/podcast editor for Filmoria and film contributor at The Interrobang. When not doing that, she’s writing books on classic Hollywood, including Lew Ayres: Hollywood’s Conscientious Objector and her new book Hitchcock’s Stars: Alfred Hitchcock and the Hollywood Studio System.
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