Original Leisure & Entertainment

Gina Rodriguez & Jennifer Lopez Test How Far Charm Will Take A Movie ~ At The Movies With Kasey

Critics write articles about the death of the romantic comedy so often that the argument has become a trope much like those writers bemoan in the movies. The rom-com is not going to die. It has been around since Shakespeare. And the predictability of the stories contributes to their charm, as much fun when they work well as when they are spoofed by, for example, Mindy Kaling. Are rom-coms often cliched and silly? Yes. But knowing that a happy ending is coming so you can enjoy the romp is a big part of the fun.

With that preamble in mind, I turn to Netflix’s new romcom, Players. The movie opens with four friends—Mack (Gina Rodriguez), Adam (Damon Wayans Jr.), Brannagan (Augustus Prew), and Little (Joel Courtney)—who have been running elaborate plays to pick up flings since they were in college. Now that they’re in their thirties, Mack starts to think she may want a more adult relationship, and a fancypants journalist, Nick (Tom Ellis), is her target. She enlists her guys and the scheming receptionist at the newspaper where they work, Ashley (Liza Koshy), to help her run one last play to make Nick fall for her.

Players means to put a twist on a shopworn premise by making the mastermind behind the group of pickup artists a woman. Doing so does take out a lot of the sexism of past iterations of this trope, but it is not an especially interesting setup. The first twenty minutes or so of the movie are both raunchy and dull. The story gets much more interesting as it focuses on Mack’s writing. It seems there was a brainstorming session to come up with ridiculous sports—like Chess Boxing—for her to cover as the sportswriter for a small Brooklyn paper. Between her silly work on the beat and her serious research for a nostalgic feature piece, her devotion to her job and the conflict that creates in her relationships are some of the best, most real parts of the story.

Gina Rodriguez’s considerable charm buoys the film, creating a solid base that allows for the zanier side characters. I wish that she had more chemistry with Damon Wayans Jr. or Tom Ellis, which would have made it easier to care about Mack’s love life. Liza Koshy also shines as a wildcard of a character in Ashley. Marin Hinkle was sadly underused as Macks’ editor, Kirk.

Players is a fine rom-com. It could have been more creative or had more sizzle, but I laughed at the jokes, enjoyed the plot, and was glad I endured the first act to get to the good stuff. Will Lindsay Lohan’s Irish Wish fare better in March? We’ll see.

Players was written by Whit Anderson and directed by Trish Sie. It runs 105 minutes and is rated TV-MA.

Over on Amazon, Jennifer Lopez has taken a page out of Beyoncé’s playbook and created an hour-long film based on her most recent album. This Is Me…Now: A Love Story blends fantasy, music, and a lot of symbolism to convey a thinly-veiled story about J.Lo’s serial monogamy.

The film starts with a Puerto Rican folk story about starcrossed lovers turned into a red flower and a hummingbird. This tale establishes the central metaphor used to depict a quest for true love throughout. Lopez plays a character dubbed the Artist, who experiences a heartbreak that sends her on a tumultuous quest for love, leading to a lot of therapy (with Fat Joe as the therapist), three divorces, and an intervention from her friends. Meanwhile, the astrological signs (featuring Jane Fonda, Trevor Noah, Kim Petras, Post Malone, Keke Palmer, Sofia Vergara, Jenifer Lewis, and, comically, Neil DeGrasse Tyson) look down on her wondering if she will ever get it right.

This Is Me…Now: A Love Story has two main problems as I see it. First, there is just too much going on. In several scenes, Lopez wears too many accessories and I wanted her to take off a hat or some jewelry or something. That’s how I felt about the film, too. There’s the hummingbird and the zodiac? Choose one, and make it the hummingbird. The film also looks and sounds like it could have come out in 2003. Back then, it probably would have been called revolutionary. Now, it just feels stale. In many ways, Lopez demonstrates self-awareness and insight in telling the story, but with how much the costumes, choreography, and music felt passé, it made me wonder if she was intentionally invoking an earlier time in her career or if she was just really stuck.

Jennifer Lopez, however, does have superhuman charisma and some range as an actress. That’s what has made her career so fun from Anaconda to Hustlers to Shotgun Wedding. Even as I thought every minute of it was terrible, my attention was captivated by this little indulgence in autobiography. A companion documentary is in the works and I will probably watch that too.

This Is Me…Now: A Love Story was written by Jennifer Lopez, Matt Walton, and Dave Meyers, who directed. It runs 65 minutes and is rated 16+.

Kasey Butcher

Kasey Butcher

She is proud to be a Ft. Wayne native, a graduate of Homestead HS, Ball State University & Miami University. She became involved with journalism editor-in-chief for her high school magazine. She authors the "At The Movies with Kasey Butcher" review. > Read Full Biography > More Articles Written By This Writer