Playing by Heart (1998) / Comedy-Drama

MPAA Rated: R for language
Running Time: 121 min.

Cast: Sean Connery, Angelina Jolie, Dennis Quaid, Gillian Anderson, Gena Rowlands
Director:  Willard Carroll
Screenplay: Willard Carroll

Review published June 18, 1999

Playing by Heart follows the story of eleven people all facing a crisis in the love department for various reasons, ranging from AIDS to adultery to inability to commit.  Although sporting an impressive cast, its writer-director Willard Carroll (The Runestone, Tom's Midnight Garden), who spent most of his career writing straight-to-video children's movies, that is the real star. He skillfully shifts  from storyline to storyline, with each never wrecking the mood of the other, and ultimately ties them all together for a satisfyingly portrayed ending.

The film never seems to miss a beat, and this is the best material veteran actors Sean Connery (The Avengers, The Rock) and Dennis Quaid (The Parent Trap, DragonHeart) have done in years.  Yet it's the newcomers Angelina Jolie (Pushing Tin, The Bone Collector) and Ryan Phillippe (54, I Know What You Did Last Summer) that steal the show, with a touching (if farfetched) tale of finding love even if all hope is lost.

If there is a drawback for the film, it happens to be the fact that characters seem to fall in and out of love so easily.  Although this may be a narrative necessity due to there being six ongoing storylines in a two hour film, when characters do finally come to terms with their true feelings, it isn't as moving as it could have been if the entire film were devoted to one story.  However, I'm quibbling a bit.  Playing by Heart is a quality piece of work, a smart drama with good performances that delivers many things to make you smile and think.

Qwipster's rating:

1999 Vince Leo