Playing for Keeps **(*)
Directed by Gabriele Muccino; written by Robbie Fox; starring Gerard Butler, Jessica Biel, Uma Thurman, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Dennis Quaid; produced by Millenium Films/Andrea Leone Films/Medusa Films; 100 mins; USA/Italy 2012.
George, a famous ex-soccer player has lost his wife Stacie and their child Lewis because of his infidelity. After investing money in Canada and going bankrupt, he decides to rebuild his relationship with Lewis by moving to Virginia where he and Stacie live. When he is offered a position to coach Lewis’ soccer team he accepts, but he immediately begins to attract the lustful attention of the wealthy and unsatisfied wives and mothers of the suburb…
Americans seem to pay attention to soccer only during the World Cup or when magazines gossip about David Beckham and his glamorous family. Regardless, American children love soccer and, lately, the expression “soccer mom” has been used to identify these middle class mothers. Rich husbands support these soccer moms so that they may dedicate themselves entirely to their children’s activities.
This type of woman is abundant in the suburb to which George Dryer moves. He is a declining ex-soccer player whose career has been suddenly interrupted by an accident, and due to unwise investments in Canadian real estate he has lost all of his money. Career and money, however, are not the only things he has lost. His wife Stacie has left him because of his infidelity and has taken their child Lewis with her. They now live in Virginia and George has come to their town to rebuild his relationship with Lewis, and possibly with his wife. He is so determined to accomplish his goal that while waiting to be offered a “real” job as a commentator he accepts the job to coach his son’s soccer team.
From the beginning, the soccer moms shamelessly flirt with him, and while George’s intentions to win his family back are genuine he can’t help being tempted. George really does love his wife, but unfortunately she is set to marry a man who, unlike himself, is reliable.
Often after coaching the kids, television auditions and a ride in a Ferrari, George finds himself in bed with a woman. However, even while he has in the past been a womanizer, he sincerely is willing to change. Because of his conscience, when he finds the wife of the wealthy Carl King (who has loaned him the Ferrari) in his bed, George declines; ultimately getting himself into trouble.
Gabriele Muccino’s third American movie rests on the premise that it is difficult for an adult man to really commit himself to adulthood. George is an ex Peter Pan who is looking for both responsibility and maturity, yet unable to conquer either.
While the intention is good and the cast prestigious, the story’s tone is far from the previous two American works of this Italian director (The Pursuit of Happyness (2006) and Seven Pounds (2008)) . While Muccino’s directing style is remarkable, the flaws of the movie seem to be generated by a script that is a bit too predictable.
Muccino said during an interview that he intended to give a less predictable ending to the movie: in this case even lovers of a happy ending wouldn’t have been able to find fault with that wish.
Problematic elements: some sensual scenes including a partially nude scene. MPAA rating is PG-13
Laura Cotta Ramosino is a story editor for Rai Uno, the national Italian broadcaster, and contributes to different magazines and web-sites about cinema and television.