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Playing By Heart (1999)
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Review Date: January 23, 1999
Director: Willard Carroll
Writer: Willard Carroll
Producers: Willard Carrol, Meg Liberman, Thomas L. Wilhite
Actors:
Gillian Anderson as Meredith / Angelina Jolie as Joan
Madeleine Stowe as Gracie/ Anthony Edwards as Roger
Ryan Phillipe as Keenan / Gena Rowlands as Hannah
Sean Connery as Paul / Dennis Quaid as Hugh
Ellen Burstyn as Mildred / Jay Mohr as Mark / Jon S
Plot:
Follow the lives of several couples falling in and out of love, finding themselves, regaining a clearer understanding of the people that they are, and who they want, and appreciating the fine emotional art of love.
Critique:
Charmingly effective romantic drama, this film offers insight into various types of relationships, presents us with interesting characters and excellent performances from the cast, and scratches beneath the surface of love and its many complex subtleties. How do people fall in love? Why do people fall out of love? How do people fall back into love, once they've been hurt and left to join the Lonely Hearts Club? All of these questions and more, are touched upon in this film, within several types of variant relationships.

Meet a hip, young couple going through their first date. A divorcee attempting to date again after her many failed relationships. A married woman "finding herself" while cheating on her husband. A husband letting go of his inhibitions. An older couple dealing with a past "love" of the man, a secret recently uncovered. A son dying from AIDS, joined by his mother at the hospital. There are many nuances to this picture, and many ideas and quotes to which we could all relate, but more importantly, there is diversity. Diversity of relationships helped me and my gang of friends enjoy this film on many levels. Some related to the younger couples' issues. Others with the married. There's a little bit of everything for everyone in here. And I would bet dollars to donuts that if I were to watch this film again in a year, I would relate myself to yet another predicament. Just like love itself, this movie is distinct and appreciated by all on many different levels.

The actors in this film are all also very, very good. Sean Connery is solid as the older man with some issues to resolve, as is Gena Rowlands, as the aging wife with trepidations. Jolie comes out of this film a star with a great performance, while Philippe is as pretty-boy as ever. Anderson leaves Scully far behind with her wonderful portrayal of a damaged woman trying to re-ignite her love life, opposite a surprisingly admirable performance by former talk-show host, Jon Stewart. Even Dennis Quaid manages to step outside of his overacting shoes in this film, and offers a convincing show of a man lost within his own imagination. The only piece of this puzzle which left me somewhat detached, was the part surrounding Jay Mohr, the man dying from AIDS, and his mother, Ellen Burstyn. The actors were fine, but somehow, the piece seemed out of place within the realm of everything else. The ending of this film was also a little too saccharine for me, but I guess that's just Hollywood. This film is actually a lot like YOUR FRIENDS AND NEIGBORS (4/10) and HAPPINESS (3/10) in concept and style, but its complete anthesis in regards to character relatibility and likeness. The characters in those films were too unique and inhuman for anyone to care, as opposed to this film, which offers rich and believable characters, living real lives and talking about real issues in today's relationships.

All in all, this movie offers many interesting characters, talking and living genuine and engaging love lives, wonderful performances by its solid cast, too sweet of an ending, but an enjoyable and rewatchable movie nonetheless.
(c) 2014 Berge Garabedian
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