Playing for Keeps Review… (a.k.a. my Open Letter to Gerry Butler)

[sigh] I didn’t really want to write this letter. Not only because I had done it once before when The Bounty Hunter came out, but I was quite anticipating Playing For Keeps for a while. I was thrilled when I got and advanced screening invite on the same day as The Hobbit (yay!) right before I left for vacation.

I saw The Hobbit first which I loved, and a few hours later, I went to another cinema to see Playing For Keeps with my girlfriend Becky (aka PrairieGirl). I really wanted to LOVE this movie and I thought the premise had potential. I mean Butler was [seemingly] perfect as a former soccer star (with his Scottish brogue intact), starring as a former player of his beloved Celtics no less. I’ve seen him in a soccer movie before (the based-on-a-true-story Games of Our Lives and also those Soccer Aid Charity Match), so he’s very believable in that role.

Alas, I’d have to agree with the Rotten Tomatoes summary:

Witless, unfocused, and arguably misogynistic, Playing for Keeps is a dispiriting, lowest-common-denominator Hollywood rom-com.

PFK_RTscore

Actually, the weekend I checked the RT score, it was at a woeful 0% and you know what, I really can’t disagree with that. It’s truly one of the WORST movies I’ve ever come across and to add to the sting, GB didn’t just star in this movie, he also produced this stinker (yikes!!). In the trailer post, I had hoped that it would at least be a feel-good dramedy this Winter, alas, it barely even give us that! It’s even more discombobulating that actors like Catherine Zeta-Jones, Uma Thurman, Dennis Quaid, and the affable Judy Greer agreed to do such an embarrassingly-thankless roles. Forget one-dimensional, yes there’s that, but mostly, their characters are just bizarre, disturbing and cringe-worthy!

I’d like to recall my letter to him I wrote in March of 2010, clearly he did NOT read it…

Please don’t waste your talent on sub-par scripts, especially those that require you to be a neanderthal/ chauvinistic/ boorish/ obnoxious (and in the case of The Ugly Truth and The Bounty Hunter, all of the above). I’m inclined to say ‘get off the rom-com’ trail, but to be fair, I quite enjoyed P.S. I Love You and your ‘Gerry’ character is both charming and sexy, a perfect combination of being manly and hopelessly-romantic at the same time. What I do want to say is, stay away from bad scripts! It doesn’t matter what genre, a bad script is a bad script, and it’s just not going to help your career.

Well, suffice to say I just can’t be a GB fan anymore. Consider this my goodbye letter Mr. Butler…

Dear Gerry,

I can’t believe it’s been nearly an entire decade since I saw you in The Phantom of the Opera. It still remains one of my favorite musicals and my favorite roles you’ve done to this day. It’s a testament of the quality of your role choices lately that when I was about to update my list of Favorite GB roles for your birthday, I was quite stumped. So I kept my original list which includes one of your finest performance to date, that is in Dear Frankie, as I didn’t really think your recent performances in the past two years wowed me enough to replace any of them on that list.

PFKposter

It’s quite astounding that the movie itself could actually be worse than this poster!

Now, let me just speak for a moment of my monumental disappointment with your recent dramedy Playing For Keeps. Well, I was expecting some drama and comedy but got neither! Let me start with your performance. I don’t know if you’re trying to be understated and cool, but it came across as lethargic to me. Yes I get it, your character is down-on-his-luck as George had squandered his good fortune as a soccer star and now he could barely able to pay rent as he dreamed on being a sportscaster. George had good intentions, wanting to reconnect with his  young son, and preferably rekindle his romance with his ex-wife. It’s all [potentially] heartwarming stuff, except that the relationship with his oh-so-adorable kid was hugely overshadowed by all that creepy soccer moms lusting over him. There’s nothing fun or amusing in any of George’s encounters with any of these women, and it didn’t help that George (nor you playing the role) seemed to have much fun doing the scenes either. Don’t even get me started with the predictable ending, which you could’ve surmised from the trailer. Now, there have been some movies that I still appreciate despite the predictability factor because the journey was worthwhile, but in this case of PFK, the journey was so excruciating that it was like being kicked whilst you’re down!

I must’ve gained an extra wrinkle on my face from cringing so much during the entire movie! There’s not even a moment of sincerity I could find, or even to relate to, the whole time I kept wondering just what the heck was Gabriel Muccino trying to do with this movie, what Robbie Fox was trying to say with this script, and most of all, how did this kind of movie ever got greenlit?? There’s no depth whatsoever in any of the characters, not even George himself on whom the whole story hinges on. Poorly-conceived plot is just putting it mildly, I think the only word that came to mind about PFK is ill-advised. It’s everything that’s wrong about Hollywood’s rom-coms… and sadly Gerry, you’ve been in more than your fair share in them. I mean heck, even Matthew McConaughey had been off the rom-com trails and has since garnered some kudos for his recent performances.

Going back to those favorite roles once again, three of the movies I listed (Dear Frankie, BBC’s The Jury and PS I Love You), and I should also mention your excellent performance Coriolanus, you had a supporting role in them. You didn’t carry the movie but yet your presence was a highlight. It made me think that perhaps you should take a well-deserved break and take a good long look at your career so far. It might be a good idea to seek out supporting roles (no I’m not talking about a stint in something so far-off like Movie 43), I’m talking about a small but important supporting roles in a quality project. It’d be nice if it’s with an acclaimed director, but so long as it’s got a strong script, that’s all that matters. Forget the pay check, I’m guessing you’ve made enough to last a couple of centuries. If you truly care about acting, don’t you want to be remembered for the craft of your work? Perhaps your entourage/groupies tell you that you’re a star and you must always play the lead. Well, as your [former] fan, let me tell you that it’s far more gratifying to see an actor in a good performance in a brief screen time than seeing him/her in an awful one scene after scene.

As I said in your Birthday post, I still think you’re a talented and capable actor. I just can’t fathom your role choices, especially now that you actually have the opportunity to seek out good ones with your own production company. Please don’t let the disappointment of the marketing of Machine Gun Preacher give you an excuse to forgo strong characters. Granted not everybody loved the film, but you did your best with the role and the story of Sam Childers was inspiring, so I’m glad you did that film and I was happy to recommend it. I could even enjoy a so-so movie like Chasing Mavericks because at least I could see the value of the story and I appreciate the dedication you did for the role, even to the point of almost dying in a surfing accident. Roles like George on the other hand, just left a bitter taste in my mouth.

Pardon my harsh letter but I feel that things need to be said for my own sake, as I don’t think you’d care to read it and your still-ardent fans probably would just brush me off. I do hope that your recent flops would be an eye-opener for you and hopefully you have the humility to take a look at what you have become. Everyone needs a ‘wake up call’ once in a while and perhaps you’ve been hitting the snooze button for far too long.

Best Wishes,

ruth m.


Well, it feels good to get it off my chest. Don’t cry for Gerry Butler, folks, I’m sure he’s still got a legion of fans ready to defend him :D

So that’s one crush I’m saying good bye to after all these years. Whilst we’re on the topic, which of your movie crush disappointed you this past year?

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Happy 43rd Birthday Gerard Butler!

I can’t believe I almost forgot that today’s Gerry Butler’s birthday! I actually remembered it last month as I knew the date falls on the 13th. Alas, my fourth tribute to my long-time crush comes a little late. Ger, if you’re reading this, I hope you don’t mind! (yeah, dream on girl)

Well, this marks my FOURTH tribute to the 43-year-old actor since I fell for him back in 2005 right after I saw Phantom of the Opera for the second time on the big screen. But I didn’t have a blog back then until about 5 years later. So if you do the math, that means I’ve been a fan of his for the last seven years. I’m pretty loyal I guess when it comes to my crush. Though I was spellbound by Gregory Peck for a time (I’m sure y’all remember), I never really forget about my beloved Scot. I mean how could I? He’s my only cinematic crush I’ve ever been blessed to meet, as you’ve probably read in my TIFF nostalgia post.

Seems that I have created all kinds of lists in Gerry’s honor. On my first tribute on this blog, I actually shared an excerpt from my work-in-progress temporarily abandoned Whirlwind novel where the male protagonist is pretty much inspired by GB. I mean his name is Eric Sheridan, I think GB’s fans would know where that comes from ;)

Here are a few other tributes for GB over the years:

One of the 42 reasons Becky and I agree on is how versatile GB is as an actor.

He’s played a brother to a confidant of Queen Victoria, Dracula, a young, out-of-work, scheming cad, Attila the Hun, a lonely alcoholic juror who finds love in the wrong place, a time traveling archaeologist, a temporary father to a young deaf boy, Beowulf, a Spartan king, a very loving, charming husband who dies much too soon, an amateur gangster, the voice of a father to an animated boy who ends up taming dragons, a reformed drug addict turned preacher, who in turn gives back life and hope to impoverished children in Africa, a soccer coach, a surfing coach, and a lot more. Whew!

The many faces of GB in the movies

Now, the Top Five Favorite GB Roles post is not a birthday tribute but I’m re-posting that list again here as three years later, even though I have seen six more of his films, I still don’t know which ones I’d swap out and I’m not quite ready to make a top 10 list yet (save that for next year perhaps). So let’s just say I’m putting his roles in Rocknrolla, Machine Gun Preacher, Coriolanus, Timeline and Chasing Mavericks in honorable mentions for now.

The Phantom/Erik (Phantom of the Opera)

The moment I went ‘who’s THAT guy?’

This one is obviously going to be the top of the list, being the role that won me over. Some critics trashed his singing, comparing it to Michael Crawford’s voice — the original Phantom on Broadway — which is unfair as he had no vocal training prior to doing this role. Besides, Gerry’s rock ‘n roll voice was what Andrew Llyod Webber wanted for the film and I could see why. The way he imbued each song with such genuine heart-felt emotion was beautiful and devastating to watch. In fact, he sort of ruined the stage version for me as I’d much prefer Gerry’s dazzling performance. Plus, he could swing that cape like nobody’s business, and even with a half deformed face, he was as sexy as ever.

Johnnie Donne  (BBC miniseries The Jury)

Every time people tell me he can’t act, I almost always tell them to catch a glimpse of this little-seen legal drama. Gerry played a recovering alcoholic juror who’s trying to get his life back on track in the midst of a grueling murder trial. Even early in his career, I was impressed with his intense dramatic chops. It’s all in the eyes with Gerry, and all the close-up shots throughout this series truly captured the inner struggle of his character. My favorite scene is when he learned the truth about the woman he’s in love with. I can’t watch that scene without tearing up. He made brokenness and heartbreak so utterly bewitching.

King Leonidas (300)

The world finally learns who Gerry is because of this role. It’s not one of my fave GB movies because of the genre, but the movie worked because the audience believed in him as the King. Gerry transformed himself physically which definitely helped the role, but his regal yet severe demeanor gave Leonidas that commanding presence. If you see GB in any interview or talk-show, we know he’s a gregarious and goofy guy, but there’s no trace of that in this role.

The Stranger (Dear Frankie)

This tiny gem of a movie won many festival film awards and remains one of my all-time favorites. GB’s only in it for merely 20 minutes or so, but every single scenes he’s in packs an emotional wallop. There’s probably only a page of dialog written for his character, which is why it calls for a very restrained and measured kind of acting. There’s a scene where the Stranger reacted to something Frankie’s mother Lizzie said. I can’t forget that look on his face: it was a mix of disgust, pity, anger and deep sympathy all rolled into one.

Gerry (P.S. I Love You)

GB’s new fans from 300 was flabbergasted to see his soft side right after such a bad @$$ role, but that’s exactly what I expect from him. He’s said in interviews that he shared some of the gregariousness of his ‘Gerry’ character and it shows. He plays him with such ease and is as convincing as a softie, goofy dude — complete with the shamrock-boxer-clad striptease — as he was as a tough-as-nail King of Sparta. Having to act opposite two-time Oscar winner must’ve been daunting but lots of people who’ve seen this actually thought it’s Hillary Swank who could be better cast here.


Quick Thoughts on GB’s Career

I know he’s had a share of flops the past couple of years, though certainly no fault of his. Machine Gun Preacher was marketed poorly — actually barely is the more fitting word here — and Chasing Mavericks seems to suffer a similar fate. He was excellent in Coriolanus but the Shakespearean dialog naturally deters a lot of people from seeing it in its brief theatrical run (it never even made it to some states like here in MN). But I give GB props for constantly trying something new and challenging himself. He’s not afraid to try something new, I mean he learned how to surf at 41, that’s really quite something! He seems to often suffer for his art, too, something I’ve always admired about him. From sitting in the makeup chair for over 5 hours for Phantom, working out until his muscles are gone for 300, and nearly drowning to death in Chasing Mavericks. GB seems to live his life to the fullest… albeit too close to the edge at times.

Despite being a longtime fan, I have skipped a couple of GB movies, such as Gamer. I’ve also detested two of his rom-coms (The Ugly Truth and The Bounty Hunter) as they’re both so badly-written. I’m hoping Playing For Keeps would fare a bit better the fact that it’s more of a soccer dramedy as his character is a former Celtic football player. Plus he gets to keep his native Scottish accent, hurray! I’m looking forward to Olympus Has Fallen, yes it’s that Die Hard in the White House flick, but I’d love to see GB in a full-throttle action again and it’s nice to see him being surrounded by the likes of Morgan Freeman, Angela Bassett, Aaron Eckhart, and Melissa Leo, amongst others. Hopefully we see a trailer soon and also a much, much better poster than this one, preferably with his name actually listed on the darn thing (seriously!)

If I have one wish for him is that he’d choose his next project wisely. Hollywood is fickle and with three flops back-to-back, a lot of people might think his career is over by now. I’d love to see him take on some supporting roles in high-profile projects and work with top notch filmmakers like Christopher Nolan, Martin Scorsese, what have you. Perhaps the pressure is on for him to always be the lead but I think taking on supporting roles like he did in Coriolanus might actually broaden his horizon so to speak. He’s a versatile and capable actor but I feel that his talent has been either wasted on sub-par movies or that his good performances get grossly overlooked. I sure hope better years lie ahead for him… oh and that he’d FINALLY do the Robert Burns biopic that he’d be perfect for!

So, Happy Birthday, Gerry! Here’s to good health, joyful days and a long lasting cinematic career!


So that’s my belated tribute, folks. Thoughts you want to share on Gerry Butler?