Playing for Keeps


Gerard Butler, playing George, a former soccer great now dodging bill collectors in suburban Virginia, speaks in his natural Scottish accent in the romantic comedy Playing for Keeps. The brogue is remarked upon at least three times, with one character calling it “charming”—which it is, insofar as it distinguishes Butler here from the non-Scottish guys he played in The Ugly Truth (2009) and The Bounty Hunter (2010), rom-coms that we can now pinpoint as the opening salvos of the war on women. Although less hateful than those earlier movies, Playing for Keeps, directed by Gabriele Muccino (The Pursuit of Happyness, Seven Pounds), isn’t especially kind to the ladies, either. Three-fourths of the female roles are manipulative, sad soccer moms—of various socioeconomic and marital status—written into the script (by Robbie Fox) only to try to bed recovering philanderer George, who coaches their kids and is trying to make things right with his ex-wife (Jessica Biel) and son, Lewis (Noah Lomax). That Lewis’s age in one scene is given as 10, and then, shortly after, nine, gives you a sense of how much care and thought was put into this movie. Yet it’s not entirely forgettable. I’ll long be haunted by Dennis Quaid’s manic performance as a palm-greasing dad who seems to be under the influence of bath salts—tweaked-out acting that matches the camera movements.