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Playing By Heart

Director/Writer:Willard Carroll
Miramax; R; 100 minutes
Release:2/99
Cast:Gillian Anderson, Ellen Burstyn, Sean Connery, Ryan Phillippe, Dennis Quaid, Gena Rowlands, Jon Stewart and Madeleine Stowe

Playing By Heart resembles a planetarium: it's star-studded yet entirely mechanical in its movements, and after the experience one is left with a nagging suspicion of grandeur unrealized. The movie enters into the lives of six couples, each pirouetting upon a critical fulcrum. The best pair may be Gillian Anderson as the disenchanted theater director who stumbles into an architect possessing superhuman goodwill (Jon Stewart). Playing a married couple, Sean Connery and Gena Rowlands avoid confronting his terminal illness by quibbling over a decades-old infidelity; Madeleine Stowe and Anthony Edwards' characters cheat on their spouses (and possibly themselves). As seemingly mismatched hipsters, Angelina Jolie and Ryan Phillippe club a truism (“talking about love is like dancing to architecture”) into the ground; Dennis Quaid's lone wolf fabricates lies to every woman he meets. That their divergent paths become neatly straightened in the movie's closing minutes points to reckless editing of untenably shallow material. Playing By Heart isn't bad; it's cheerily hurried, but when it arrives on-screen, it's far too flustered to tell a convincing story.


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