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Playing It Cool by Jake Monaco (Review)

posted Feb 17, 2015, 3:44 PM by Kaya Savas

Playing It Cool is a romcom starring Chris Evans and Michelle Monaghan, which is the story of a writer who doesn’t believe in love until he falls in love for real. This movie has been stuck on the shelf since 2013, and was previously known as A Many Splintered Thing. Obviously the distributor who finally picked this movie up thought it was a hideous title for marketing, and changed it to Playing It Cool. The expectedly short score from Jake Monaco runs at around 22-minutes, and features some tracks from Andrew Feltenstein & John Nau who have been making a splash as composers recently. Given the long time this movie has been gestating, I’d be willing to bet that Monaco didn’t collaborate with the duo. The score itself though was surprisingly refreshing, which is damn near impossible to do these days with a romantic comedy.

What makes the score work is that it embraces a unique voice behind the music. I feel that most romcom scores pretty much go for the generic sound, and since these types of movies all follow the same formula it becomes hard to be different. There’s only so much you can get away with in terms of instrumentation, especially with this genre and probably budget constraints. Guitar and piano are almost a given, and we get that here but it’s part of a much larger soundscape. The music has a folksy vibe to it, and definitely carries a personality. Electronic percussion loops add a bit of a tangibility to the score, and gives it a shape. If there is a drawback is that there is not enough time dedicated to the romance. I feel the comedy, but the romantic bits come in 50-second bursts and are not really built up to it. I would have liked to feel that romance building from the get go instead of just have sections of energetic fun then boom, the kissing cue. Again, the score is only 22-minutes long so it’s hard to really structure a narrative when the music is taking up very little real estate. Overall though it’s a pleasant enough score that does outshine recent efforts in this genre.

Playing It Cool is a nice little diversion. I love that Monaco has a style, and that he embraces the genre with his style. The score can’t overcome the lack of time it has to build anything momentous, but it still is able to add a little emotion and a little fun in the process. The score layers its foundations greatly, but doesn’t build to the emotional romantic parts that gracefully. What’s there though does work, and it’s better than most romcom scores you’ve heard lately.