Playing House (2011)

Playing HouseStarring Mayra Leal, Craig Welzbacher, Sarah Prikryl, Matt Lusk

Directed by Tom Vaughn

How to best describe Playing House?

Imagine an R-rated Lifetime Network original movie geared more toward men than women due to the amount of bloodshed and female nudity showcased.

Think a late night Cinemax erotic thriller from back in the “Shannon” days when those films still tried to be real movies but done so here without nearly enough gratuitous sex or nudity to rightfully label it as softcore.

If only it more openly embraced its salacious side and the beautiful seductive psychopath insinuating herself into the lives of others had been given some flowery Hispanic name, this film could have been released as Poison Ivy 4: Psycho De Mayo.

What I’m getting at is thatPlaying House is probably too graphic for one segment of the audience, not graphic enough for another, and not quite trashy enough to make it a guilty pleasure. There’s also the matter of it not being all that good.

Playing House very much hearkens back to that early Nineties era of motion pictures when Single White Female, The Crush, and other post-Fatal Attraction psychopathic women flicks ruled the screen. You know – those movies with plots that could be summarized simply as “the nanny from hell” or “the secretary from hell” or “the roommate from hell”. Playing House could be easily be dubbed “the Match.com from hell”.

Medical resident Mitch and rising chef Jen are newlyweds having a hard time of it; their long hours are taking a toll on their sex life, and they’re barely able to pay the mortgage on their new house. Jen really can’t stand the guy but reluctantly agrees to allow Mitch’s slacker best friend Danny to move in with them to help pay the bills. Not quite sure how Danny can afford to since his life appears to consist solely of playing video games and sitting quietly in his room surfing the internet.

I have to stop right here for a moment. The second the actor playing Danny appeared on the screen, I was enthralled by every scene he was in – I know this guy. Not the actor; I work with a guy that not only looks like the actor, he is the real-life version of Danny: irritating, socially aloof, gamer, web surfer, slacker, etc. And he even recently moved in with a just married couple to help them pay their rent. However, the real-life Danny got booted out after barely a month for being a deadbeat moocher, unlike the movie version that begins dating a stunningly gorgeous woman online who is out of his league and out of her mind.

Danny’s internet hook-up is a lovely Latina named Blair, played by the lovely Mayra Leal, whom you may lovingly recall from Machete for her complete lack of clothing. You’ll be happy to know she has a couple of clothing optional scenes here, too. Though Blair seems happy to be dating a loveable doofus, like many an attractive young woman looking to trade-up, she’d kill to be with a surgeon.

The year is 2011, and I just watched a motion picture where somebody died from being electrocuted by a plug-in radio dropped into a bathtub. I haven’t seen someone get killed off like that in a movie or TV show in so long I honestly believed that method of murder had long since been retired.

Blair remains a very casual psycho for much of the movie. Her mind games consist mostly of constantly showing up unexpectedly wherever Mitch or Jen are at individually wanting to hang out, doing so in a manner that makes them uncomfortably question what she’s really doing there and, in Mitch’s case, makes his underwear suddenly feel a lot tighter. This, naturally, leads to a rift because Mitch is not blind to Blair’s hotness and Jen is not blind to Mitch’s not blindness.

Any chances this film had to work as a sexy psychological thriller get done in by the film’s flatfooted direction and even flatter performances. It ends up not good enough to recommend nor entertainingly crass enough to achieve guilty pleasure status. The best I can say for Playing House is that it teeters between being watchably mediocre and inoffensively lame. That’s probably not the kind of critical blurb that’ll get used as a pull quote.

2 out of 5

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