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‘Players’ is bit shallow, but sweet

I am a sucker for the “friends to lovers” trope in romantic movies. Maybe it’s because my first and favorite rom-com is “When Harry Met Sally.” Maybe it’s because my partner and I were best friends for years before we got married. Whatever the reason, movies with that storyline tend to be the type I enjoy, so I was interested in seeing Trish Sie’s latest film, “Players,” which is currently streaming on Netflix.

Long-time friends Mack (Gina Rodriguez), Adam (Damon Wayans Jr.), Brannagan (Augustus Prew), and Little (Joel Courtney) have a “play” for every scenario that will help someone in the group have a one-night-stand. Mack runs a play to hook up with Nick (Tom Ellis), but after they sleep together, she realizes that as a 34-year-old woman, she is interested in something more, and the gang works to find a way for her to make the situation more permanent. It looks like everything is working out, but when Mack realizes that she might want something more than Nick is able to offer, she begins to look closer to home to fulfill her needs.

This movie did not grab me from the start. The characters all seemed incredibly shallow and cartoonish. And while I know that when dating, we can all massage the truth a little, having a stack of lies to facilitate hooking up feels over the top. But while the premise was a bit off-putting to me, I found myself drawn into the story, and by the end, it had won me over.

Much of this was due to the charm that Rodriguez has on screen. In a cast of fairly one-dimensional characters, she stood out as a more fully developed person, allowing me to connect with her. Honestly, I wish the other characters had been written a little stronger, because I felt like the cast had a good chemistry together, but there just wasn’t enough there to make me care about anyone other than Mack and Adam.

The overall look of this film is that of a mid-budget rom-com. Sie is a competent director and does a good job with what she has to work with. This is a reminder that there was a time when a movie like this might have a decent run in theaters before heading to streaming, but now it gets lost in the vast sea of films on an increasing number of streaming services. I’m glad that directors have a place for their work to be seen, but I would love to see directors like Sie have more films on the big screen.

“Players” might be a forgettable movie, but I also think it’s a fun watch. While the final speech doesn’t reach the heights of Harry’s, “… when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible,” but it’s still sweet. And if you gave up chocolate for Lent, maybe this can be a decent substitution.

ALISE CHAFFINS is a Morgantown writer who loves movies and sharing her opinions. She reviews a movie from a streaming service every Saturday and one newly in theaters every Sunday. Find more at MacGuffin or Meaning on Substack.