"Playing By Heart"
Apollo Guide
?, 1998?
by Mike DeWolfe


Playing by Heart is all about the capability of feeling and expressing love. The movie weaves together a collection of tales about groups of people and how they find love. Paul (Sean Connery) and Hannah (Gena Rowlands), a couple in their sixties, are at a crossroads: their children are grown-up, their relationship is cooling off and an old skeleton is peeking out of the closet. All this casts doubt on their future together. Meredith (Gillian Anderson) is a television and theatre director who catches the eye of Trent (Jon Stewart), a contractor whose means of breaking the ice is unique, albeit accidental. Joan (Angelique Jolie) is young, fiery and just coming out of a bad relationship when she falls for Keenan (Ryan Phillippe), a raver who dances alone every night. Meanwhile, Hugh (Dennis Quaid) shows up every night at a different lounge, with a different sob story to spill on the first hapless woman he finds. Gracie (Madeline Stowe) and Roger (Anthony Edwards) are a couple with lives of their own, who meet simply for uncomplicated sex. Far off in a hospital room, an estranged son (Jay Mohr) and mother (Ellen Burstyn) come together as he dies of AIDS. These people donít know where love is taking them; theyíre just 'playing by heart.'

All this sounds like enough for three, maybe four movies, but the vignettes grant just enough character exposure to give you a window into their lives. A strong, though sometimes trite, script and good direction keep all the threads going until the tales intertwine. You know that they need to come together but just how, isnít clearóand isnít too important-- until the filmís denouement. This idea of several tales dovetailing this way has been done many times before (Short Cuts, Pulp Fiction to name just two) but Playing By Heart still manages to pull it off effectively. The different tales present something for every generation from Joan and Keenan who are in a nightclub every night to Paul and Hannah who live in the twilight. The cast is superb, including gems like Connery in an atypical, but still commanding role, and Jon Stewart showing that he is capable of commanding a screen presence. The characters will no doubt grow on you and youíll come away from Playing By Heart intrigued and just a little inspired.


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Thanks to Kelly for the article.

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