Playing By Heart

  • 1998
  • 2 HR 01 MIN
  • R
  • Comedy, Drama, Romance

Structured as a series of vignettes, Willard Carroll's ambitious ensemble comedy-drama follows the intertwined destinies of a staggering cast of 11 characters. Extroverted club kid Joan (Angelina Jolie) falls in love with a reticent fellow nightcrawler (Ryan Phillippe). Uptight theater director Meredith (Gillian Anderson) is being courted by Mr. Perfect...read more

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Reviewed by Sandra Contreras
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Structured as a series of vignettes, Willard Carroll's ambitious ensemble comedy-drama follows the intertwined destinies of a staggering cast of 11 characters. Extroverted club kid Joan (Angelina Jolie) falls in love with a reticent fellow

nightcrawler (Ryan Phillippe). Uptight theater director Meredith (Gillian Anderson) is being courted by Mr. Perfect (Jon Stewart). Gracie's (Madeleine Stowe) hobby is impersonal hotel adultery with Roger (Anthony Edwards). Paul (Sean Connery) and Hannah (Gena Rowlands) have been married for 40

years and are coping with his imminent death and the emotional aftermath of a lingering infidelity. Mildred (Ellen Burstyn) is tending to her son Mark (Jay Mohr), who's in the hospital dying of AIDS, while Hugh (Dennis Quaid) is telling a different sob story in every bar in Los Angeles. The sound

of Connery uttering sitcom-esque zingers is painful, but Jolie and Quaid shine through their characters' cliches: You just plain believe when Jolie tells someone she's only just met that she loves him, or when Quaid starts acting like an executive blowhard who's had one martini too many.

Unfortunately, this isn't a Lou Reed song, so no one really does anything wild. And despite the script's conspicuous aspirations to deep meaning, Carroll ultimately just sets up the dramatic pins and knocks them down in a perfect strike. The film's sterile atmosphere can't be blamed on the

glamorized L.A. setting alone: The situations Carroll devises are perfectly controlled but dramatically void. Though his insistence that love will conquer feels like fascist mandate rather than Shakespearean whimsy, there's no doubt Carroll is a romantic. Who but a romantic would have us believe

that couples with serious lifelong problems could resolve them within the space of a week? For all the film's flirtation with jagged and disturbing material, it's a fairy tale at heart, and if that's what you're looking for, you may come away satisfied.

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