A superficially daring film about a three-way romance, in which a man and a woman love the same sultry babe, THREE OF HEARTS quickly surrenders to mainstream values.
Connie Czapski (Kelly Lynch) is a lanky and resolutely butch nurse. Her lipstick lesbian lover, Ellen Armstrong (Sherilyn Fenn), teaches college English classes and effects a dowdy bombshell look--superficially prim and proper, she's never more than a pair of sturdy glasses and a hairpin away
from sultriness. The film opens with Ellen leaving Connie, who's devastated. She's also left without an escort to the big family "do" at which she'd planned to come out by introducing Ellen to the relatives. A co-worker suggests that she leave it to the professionals, and sooner than one can say
plot contrivance, she's dancing with hunky Joe Casella (William Baldwin), a charming gigolo for whom the assignment is a welcome change from sex with aging dragon ladies.
Joe is being pursued by a vengeful ex-con, and needs a safe place to hide. Soon he's living with Connie and they hatch a plan: Joe will seduce and abandon Ellen, who'll be so disillusioned with men that she'll flee back to Connie. Naturally, things don't go so smoothly. Joe and Ellen fall in
love, and their romance is more than usually complicated by the secrets they're keeping from one another. Eventually the truth comes out, and Ellen and Joe pursue a conventional relationship, while spunky Connie gets on with her life.
THREE OF HEARTS is a would-be screwball comedy for the '90s, set in trendy downtown New York, where the sight of two girls smooching is far less shocking than the idea that a male prostitute can manage to make a living with an exclusively female clientele. THREE OF HEARTS seems to suggest that
it's okay for girls to be gay--especially if one of them is as undecided as Fenn's Ellen--but guys still have to stick to the straight and narrow.
Working from a script by Adam Greenman and Mitch Glazer, director Yurek Bogayevicz strikes a surprisingly subtle balance between comedy and drama, and elicits a remarkably good performance from Baldwin, whose male model good looks aren't paired with any dramatic range. Lynch, who shone in the
grungy DRUGSTORE COWBOY, is predictably fine, but the creamy Fenn can't make much of a difficult role. Her Ellen is lushly beautiful but colorless, a vacant space at the plot's center; it's all very well to argue that we often fail to see what people see in one another, but THREE OF HEARTS pivots
on an erotic triangle, and the fact that many viewers would rather see Connie and Joe get together and forget about the pretentious Ellen is a problem introduced at the level of performance, rather than script.
Though THREE OF HEARTS abounds in the farcical incidents and misinterpretations of intent and identity one expects from a screwball comedy, the film's pacing is off. At a brisk 97 minutes, it still seems slow, and there's a maudlin edge to the characters that Howard Hawks would never have
tolerated. But its greatest flaw is a queasiness about homosexuality that undermines the story at every turn. Ellen and Connie aren't convincing as ex-lovers because together they generate no sexual heat. A tape of the two of them together on vacation, with which the disconsolate Connie is
tormenting herself, is pure slumber party, with no hint of lustful desire; Queen Victoria, who neglected to make lesbianism illegal in England because she couldn't imagine women doing such things, would have approved. (Sexual situations, adult situations, violence.)
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- Released: 1993
- Rating: R
- Review: A superficially daring film about a three-way romance, in which a man and a woman love the same sultry babe, THREE OF HEARTS quickly surrenders to mainstream values. Connie Czapski (Kelly Lynch) is a lanky and resolutely butch nurse. Her lipstick lesbia… (more)