The Hindu (Mumbai)

Gina Rodriguez’s Valentine rom-com ‘Players’ gets stuck in a genre stalemate

‘Players,’ starring Gina Rodriguez and Tom Ellis, struggles to introduce fresh ideas to support its outdated ambition that you don’t quite understand which generation it belongs to

- Bhuvanesh Chandar

It seems as if certain tropes naturally find their way while writing romcoms, and while not all tropes age well, some are best in the generation they belonged to. Netflix’s Players is the kind of mess that struggles to introduce fresh ideas to support its outdated ambition that you don’t quite understand where it stands.

Remember Barney Stinson’s Playbook in How I Met Your Mother, which was a collection of ‘plays’ he used to court women at bars? In this film, four friends (and colleagues) — Mackenzie (Gina Rodriguez), Adam (Damon Wayans Jr.), Sam (Augustus Prew) and Little ( Joel Courtney) — use similar plays to help each other get onenight stands from bars. They’ve been doing this for over 12 years we are told, and they seem like people who would shudder at the thought of ‘love.’ But then comes trouble in the form of Nick (Tom Ellis), a hotshot war correspond­ent.

Nick seems ‘hard to get’ but Mack wants all that she sees. The group’s play works, Mack and Nick sleep together, and as expected, trouble begins when Mack realises she might actually like this guy. Now, what happens when an emotionall­y repressed person falls for someone who seems unavailabl­e emotionall­y? The group get together to make a ‘play’ for Mack but nothing seems possible, until she gets the classic movie epiphany.

From this point, anybody could guess how this story might pan out; there are only a handful of options — like, they end up realising people aren’t algorithms to crack, or it backfires and Nick breaks Mack’s heart. But what we end up getting is not good .... though it’s not the worst either. Players is as generic as many films in the genre come, but several moments in the later portions show potential on how this story could have turned out.

In his standup special

Jigsaw, Scottish comedian Daniel Sloss makes a compelling analogy that tells us how much we are conditione­d to believe that finding a partner is the most pivotal aspect of our lives, and how far we are willing to go for that. Watching someone like Mack or anyone go through this journey to find love does make you wish for a film that didn’t shy to dig deeper.

What’s refreshing, however, is watching Mack take us through some unique feature pieces she does and the prospect of romance with a writercumw­ar journo like Nick only makes you wish for a longformat story that follows such journalist­s, writers and their relationsh­ips. And if you’re a journalist, there’s a moment Mack has at a restaurant as she stares at two different versions of a piece she wrote; the context of what it means and the weight of the moment sure does touch you. But are these pockets of respite worth waiting for in a movie with such a promising cast? Not really.

Players is currently streaming on Netflix

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from India