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Overall Rating

Awesome: 24.59%
Worth A Look42.62%
Average: 16.39%
Pretty Bad: 13.11%
Total Crap: 3.28%

6 reviews, 25 user ratings

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Playing By Heart
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by Erik Childress

"Ensemble Piece Doesn't All Come Together"
3 stars

Playing By Heart (** ˝) - Here’s another movie that wound up a near miss for me. There was a lot for me to like in this film, but I felt it didn’t really add up to much and it’s “surprise” ending felt too much like a gimmick, one which I predicted to the tee since my brain usually works overtime when a film gives me time in between scenes to think about it. (It didn’t work in The Thin Red Line’s favor, which I understood, but just didn’t really care about what it was saying - see bottom.)

Anyway, back to the movie at hand. Basically you’re dealing with a movie that interweaves the audience through five different couples and one man who weaves himself through three different potential women (even if one is a drag queen). Liking the movie comes down to not only liking the writing associated with each couple, but with the couples themselves. Easily the best for me was the relationship between Angelina Jolie (in the film’s best performance) and Ryan Phillippe (who I can’t stand, but his character is nicely handled and made me tolerate his presence). Their scenes are dead-on and fascinating. Every couple plays a distant second to these two, but the closest is the Jon Stewart/Gillian Anderson courtship. Stewart handles himself very well in the way Anderson keeps shooting down his advances and a kitchen scene ranks as their best moment. Sean Connery and Gena Rowlands do nice jobs as a couple approaching their wedding anniversary by confronting past secrets. You can sense a true love between the two of them - so much so, that you almost wish the writer would have left the “affair” stuff out of the film. Ellen Burstyn and Jay Mohr play another couple as a mother at her dying son’s bedside. Also nicely played. The one couple that truly fails is the Madeline Stowe/Anthony Edwards couple. They have so few scenes in the film it’s a wonder why they are in there at all except for a necessity to tie up the ending. Both characters truly could have been dumped and the movie wouldn’t suffer a bit. That leaves us with the roaming male character played by Dennis Quaid. His performance is entertaining even if his co-stars in these scenes lack in the writing department. But what’s it all about?

It doesn’t have the underlying message of the far superior multi-character comedy Beautiful Girls (one of the most underrated films of the 90s) or at least it doesn’t really come through. It’s more like watching an improv exercise with really good actors who have a background sense of their characters and told to just go with it - especially when you see the film’s big ending which ties everything together in a nice neat package and ends up cheapening the effect of spending some time in these character’s lives.

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originally posted: 02/17/00 04:51:21
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User Comments

12/21/09 Emily I'ts a brilliant film, I't always makes me laugh. 5 stars
1/17/09 Shaun Wallner Interesting Movie! 4 stars
10/03/05 Bron One of my top 5 fave movies! 5 stars
9/13/05 drew touching 5 stars
7/23/04 Annie Awesome script, fine acting, not a word too much, just unbelievable! 5 stars
5/24/04 Butterbean Didn't care for Meridith/Trent story. It's nice how everything ties in at the end. 3 stars
7/09/03 natasha_theobald great cast does well even though the script is trying a little too hard 3 stars
3/09/03 Jack Sommersby Altman-esque without the magic. Well-acted and -photgraphed, though. 2 stars
3/28/02 Valentina Beautiful,i cry everytime i see it.WONDERFUL 5 stars
1/07/02 Jim Zzzzzzzzzz .... They still talking? Zzzzzzz .... 2 stars
7/26/01 Clara best chick flick ever 5 stars
5/12/00 Elvisfan It was allright but a slow start & annoying actors (Stowe) make it less than great 4 stars
9/28/99 beetlejazz i admit that that reason that i loved this film is b/c i am a sappy romantic.... 5 stars
8/20/99 Randall loved it 5 stars
6/15/99 David Pluses: 2.35 cinematography, Angelina Jolie Minuses: Too much plot, not enough soul 3 stars
3/22/99 Ah Dooey Is it wrong for me, just because Gillian Anderson from The X-Files is in it? 5 stars
3/11/99 Meg Angelina Jolie and Ryan Phillippe shine! 5 stars
2/18/99 Derek Eeeh. Not as clever as it thinks it is. Eliminate 1 or 2 storylines, and it's better. 3 stars
2/12/99 mandy Someone needs to cast Gillian Anderson in a romantic comedy. 5 stars
2/01/99 Tom Ripley Obviously inspired by Short Cuts, but a great flick anyways. Angelina Jolie's a revelation. 5 stars
1/30/99 donkey_dew Paduy. This stuff sucks. BORING!!! 1 stars
1/30/99 val It makes you laugh at times and it makes you cry. Great date movie!!! 5 stars
1/25/99 Meepos. Liked it a lot. 5 stars
10/19/98 Aint-It-Cool Very much like the typical Altman movie, this is a must see for 1998! 5 stars
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  22-Jan-1999 (R)


  26-Aug-1999 (M)

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