By Andrea Karen Hammer
For sports fans missing their games, the opening of Playing for Keeps throws viewers into news footage with soccer action. As the ensuing scenes unfold, the movie shows how a star athlete’s life can crumble on every level.
Gerald Butler‘s rendering of George’s tumble reveals his shadowy prowess, along with some measure of sympathy for his fumbles. Lying to his landlord about past-due rent, he has also lost solid footing in his personal life. While trying to reconnect with his 9-year-old son after a long absence, George’s lack of dependability takes apologetic form, which Gerald Butler reveals through his intensely sad eyes.
With equally expressive gestures, Jessica Biel plays ex-wife Stacie, who wears layers of protective armor. However, her furtive glances at George playing soccer with their son, Lewis (Noah Lomax), betray her tough physical stances. Her hurt and disappointment work to keep George at a personal distance while she tries to allow a growing bond between father and son.
Noah Lomax captures the emotions of a boy who was deserted at age 4 with surprising wisdom. Despite a deep longing for his father’s love, Lewis realistically conveys boiling anger when his father lets him down.
Big-Name Cast Adds Humor and Spice to Several Subplots
Along with Gerald Butler and Jessica Biel, a big-name cast includes Dennis Quaid as Carl, Uma Thurman as Patti and Catherine Zeta-Jones as Denise. Together, they add humor and spice to several subplots and momentary distractions. Despite several temptations and complications, including an ESPN job offer in another state and Stacie’s imminent marriage to another man, George finally realizes what matters most to him.
The story takes a few surprising turns, with viewers rooting in different directions. In the end, the film concludes without clarity–an element often required in effective storytelling for a satisfying conclusion.
Special Features: Tricky Camera Work and Casting Decisions
The special features were particularly interesting, providing additional insights about tricky camera work. Watching the filmmakers balance on dollies and being pulled backward is always a behind-the-scenes revelation about the complicated work required to pull off a seamless production.
The producers’ discussion of assembling the right cast was equally fascinating. One important observation was that pulling too far in one direction with the wrong personality can unsettle a delicate balance in casting decisions.
Deleted Scenes Beg for Additional Commentary About Final Choices
Similarly, watching the section with deleted scenes begs for additional commentary about these decisions. Similar to the challenges that may occur when editing written work, some meaning was lost in the final version.
Do you think about these choices when you watch a movie? Would you have written a different ending for Playing for Keeps or other films and, if so, why? Post your comments now!