Playing for Keeps (2012 film)

Playing for Keeps is a 2012 American romantic comedy film directed by Gabriele Muccino, starring Gerard Butler with Jessica Biel, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Dennis Quaid, Uma Thurman and Judy Greer in supporting roles. The film was released on December 7, 2012, in the United States and Canada by FilmDistrict. It received negative reviews from critics and was a box office bomb, grossing just $27.8 million on a $55 million budget.

Playing for Keeps
Theatrical release poster
Directed byGabriele Muccino
Produced by
Written byRobbie Fox
Music byAndrea Guerra
CinematographyPeter Menzies Jr.
Edited byPadraic McKinley
Distributed byFilmDistrict
Release date
  • December 7, 2012 (2012-12-07)
Running time
106 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Budget$35-55 million[2][3]
Box office$27.8 million[4]


George Dryer (Gerard Butler) is a former professional Scottish football player who played for Celtic, Liverpool, A. C. Milan, D.C. United and the Scotland national team. He is largely seen as a "has been", and his attempts to sell his sports memorabilia and become a sports announcer are met with ambivalence. His relationship with his son Lewis (Noah Lomax) is equally unsuccessful. When he discovers his ex-wife Stacie (Jessica Biel) is marrying her boyfriend Matt (James Tupper), George grows despondent.

After dropping off an audition tape of him practicing sports announcements, George goes to help Lewis’ football practice. The team's parents pressure Stacie to ask George to become the new coach, and he reluctantly agrees. George is bribed by Carl King (Dennis Quaid) to give his children preferential treatment, and attracts the attention of the divorced Barb (Judy Greer), ex-sportscaster Denise (Catherine Zeta-Jones), and Carl's wife Patti (Uma Thurman). Denise is particularly forward, sending George an email that she is thinking of him.

At practice, George is invited to a dinner party at Carl's house, is approached by Barb, and is told by Denise that she has been given a copy of his audition tape to watch and pass along. At Carl's party, George learns Carl has been having affairs; unbeknownst to Carl, Patti knows. Carl lends George a Ferrari under the implication that he "takes care of his friends", which George drives to see Stacie. They discuss their relationship, but Stacie says that she does not wonder about the past anymore.

Returning home, George finds Barb waiting. She confesses her loneliness, and they sleep together. Carl calls George, asking him to pick up money from Patti to bail him out of jail, as he got into a fight at the party. Doing so makes George late to pick up his son, but he entertains Lewis by letting him ride in his lap and drive the Ferrari. George discovers Lewis is sad that his mother is marrying Matt, whom he will not call "dad". Denise calls, explaining that ESPN is looking for a new football sportscaster and George must come to the studio to record a tape. George is late to pick up Lewis again, straining his relationship with both Lewis and Stacie.

Arriving home, George is berated by his landlord Param (Iqbal Theba) for not paying his rent but driving a Ferrari, and receives a call from Patti that she is in his bed. Realizing she is actually in Param’s bed, George distracts him by paying him with Carl's bribe money. Patti continues to approach George sexually, but he rebuffs her, telling her that she should leave Carl rather than have an affair. His relationship with Lewis worsens when he sees Denise kiss George, leading Lewis to realize why his father was late. This spurs Lewis into fighting during a game, and he tells his mother he wants to quit football. Coaxing Lewis into playing football in the rain, George and his son bond. Stacie and George reconnect romantically, complicating her relationship with Matt.

George receives the ESPN job, which requires moving to Connecticut. Stacie initially refuses to come with him, but he meets her at her car and she kisses him. At that day’s game, George learns Barb is dating Param, and Carl has discovered misleading pictures of Patti in George's house. As George and Carl fight, Stacie is upset by the pictures, and Lewis' team wins the game.

George leaves for his new job, but ultimately chooses to stay with Lewis instead. He renews his relationship with Stacie, who has broken off her engagement with Matt, and becomes a local sportscaster in Virginia.



The project began as a baseball story called "Confessions of a Little League Coach" but was later changed to soccer.[5] Gerard Butler was confirmed to star in the film on February 23, 2011.[6][7] On May 7, 2011, a casting call was held for extras to appear in the film.[8] Filming began during the week of April 5, 2011.[9]

On July 16, 2012, FilmDistrict changed the title from "Playing the Field" to "Playing for Keeps".[10]

Director Muccino later blamed the films muddled focus on having thirteen producers, "each wanting a different movie", and also on bad marketing.[11]


On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 5% based on 88 reviews, with an average rating of 3.4/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "Witless, unfocused and arguably misogynistic, Playing for Keeps is a dispiriting, lowest-common-denominator Hollywood rom-com."[12] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 27 out of 100, based on 25 critics, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews".[13] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B+" on an A+ to F scale.[14]

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film 2 out of 4, and praised Biel for her performance: "Jessica Biel all but steals the show as Stacie".[15] Justin Chang of Variety wrote: "A modestly affecting reconciliation drama wrapped in a so-so sports movie by way of a misogynistic romantic comedy, Playing for Keeps can't stop tripping all over itself."[16] Peter Travers of Rolling Stone magazine panned the film and said "Just stay away. It's awful."[17]


At the 33rd Golden Raspberry Awards, Jessica Biel was nominated in the Worst Supporting Actress category.[18]


  1. "PLAYING FOR KEEPS (12A)". British Board of Film Classification. 2012-11-09. Retrieved 2012-11-13.
  2. "Movie Review: Playing for Keeps". Austin Chronicle. how did this effort secure its reported $35 million for production?
  3. "Playing For Keeps". 2012-12-07. Archived from the original on 2013-02-27. Retrieved 2013-01-15.
  4. "Playing for Keeps (2012) - Financial Information". The Numbers.
  5. Jagernauth, Kevin (23 February 2011). "Uma Thurman & Jessica Biel Are 'Playing The Field' With Gerard Butler". IndieWire.
  6. Germain Lussier (February 23, 2011). "Gerard Butler Will Be 'Playing The Field' With Uma Thurman and Jessica Biel". /Film. Retrieved January 16, 2012.
  7. Sneider, Jeff (23 February 2011). "Thurman, Biel to start 'Playing the Field'". Variety.
  8. "Auditions Information for Independent film 'Playing the Field' Starring Gerard Butler". Feature Film Auditions. Retrieved January 16, 2012.
  9. Steven Zeitchik (April 5, 2011). "Gerard Butler Beings Playing the Field". L.A. Times. Retrieved January 16, 2012.
  10. "FilmDistrict Renames Gerard Butler Soccer Comedy 'Playing For Keeps'". July 16, 2012. Retrieved July 16, 2012.
  11. Vivarelli, Nick (30 January 2014). "'Pursuit of Happyness' Director Hopes New Indie Puts Him Back on Studios' Radar". Variety.
  12. "Playing for Keeps". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved June 27, 2014.
  13. "Playing for Keeps Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved February 26, 2013.
  14. "CinemaScore". CinemaScore. Retrieved November 9, 2018.
  15. Ebert, Roger. "Playing for Keeps movie review (2012) | Roger Ebert". Chicago Sun-Times.
  16. Chang, Justin (21 November 2012). "Playing for Keeps". Variety.
  17. Travers, Peter (7 December 2012). "Playing for Keeps". Rolling Stone.
  18. Bibbiani, William (January 8, 2013). "The 33rd Annual Razzies (Dis)-Honor Twilight: Breaking Dawn: Part 2". Retrieved January 9, 2013.
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