Hidden Gem – Playing by Heart

by Alan Rapp on April 2, 2013

in Home Video

  • Title: Playing by Heart
  • IMDB: link

“Talking about love is like dancing about architecture.”

Playing by HeartReleased in 1998, Playing by Heart follows the formula of several romantic dramedies (Love Actually being the best) which feature interlocking stories of couples in various states of their respective relationships. Written and directed by Willard Carroll, the film is notable for it’s impressive ensemble cast as well as a pair of the six stories which slowly come together during the film’s final act.

My favorite of the group features Angelina Jolie, as the beautiful but high-maintenance Joan, and Ryan Phillippe as the aloof young man with a dark secret who seems immune to her obvious charms. Also worthy of note are Sean Connery and Gena Rowlands as an elderly couple dealing with both the looming specter a life-threatening medical condition and a long-simmering old argument as the pair prepare to renew their vows on their 40th wedding anniversary.

We also get a charming architect (Jon Stewart) who can’t quite get past the walls and rules of a theatre director (Gillian Anderson) who is obviously attracted to him, Ellen Burstyn as a mother attempting to comfort her estranged son (Jay Mohr) who is dying of AIDS, Madeleine Stowe as a married woman having an affair with another man (Anthony Edwards), and Dennis Quaid as a charming man who tells attractive women (Patricia ClarksonNastassja Kinski) and drag queens (Alec Mapa) detailed, yet completely fabricated, stories about his tragic life.

Angelina Jolie is the film’s true star as the Joan/Keenan relationship is the most interesting relationship on display as well. It also provides most of the film’s best lines and scenes including a brutal sequence where Keenan reveals the reason for his reluctance to start a relationship with Joan. All things considered, I’d have preferred an entire film focused just on their relationship rather than jumping from story to story.

Playing by Heart

Connery and Rowlands’ storyline may not be as compelling but the pair of seasoned actors are terrific together on-screen dealing with a myriad of issues including a perceived 25 year-old affair whose truth is almost as damaging as, and far more interesting than, the perceived sleight. Burstyn and Mohr’s story draws the short straw in terms of screentime but their final scene together on-screen has a solid emotional punch. Stewart and Anderson make a good couple but much of their dialogue feels a bit too much like a movie dialogue. Quaid’s story is by far the most over-the-top, but it also provides a terrific bar scene involving Quaid and Nastassja Kinski.

Although the individual pieces work better than the combined whole, Playing by Heart provides opportunities for all its stars to shine. Released on Blu-ray for the first time, but sadly (as the previous DVD releases) this new release contains no extras.

[Miramax Echo Bridge, Blu-ray $14.99]

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Irene April 10, 2013 at 1:04 pm

I love this movie so much I’ve probably watched it more than 100 times. Joan and Keenan are great together and I really enjoy Meredith, Trent, and her dog Barley. Maybe some of the other stories are not as amazing but I enjoy watching them all and they fit well together.


sally April 10, 2013 at 5:59 pm

One of my favs!


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