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Playing By Heart

movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Playing By Heart

Starring: Gillian Anderson, Ellen Burstyn
Director: Willard Carroll
Rated: R
RunTime: 120 Minutes
Release Date: January 1999
Genres: Drama, Romance

*Also starring: Sean Connery, Anthony Edwards, Angelina Jolie, Jay Mohr, Ryan Phillippe, Dennis Quaid, Gena Rowlands, Jon Stewart, Madeleine Stowe

Review by Susan Granger
2½ stars out of 4

Someone once said that "writing about music is like dancing about architecture" - meaning it cannot be done - and film-maker Willard Carroll was so taken with that sentiment that he called this funny, poignant drama "Dancing About Architecture" until the MPAA decreed that the title might be confused with "Dancing at Lughnasa." "Playing by Heart" follows multiple characters from various generations and lifestyles as they search for love in contemporary Los Angeles during an eight day-and-night span. Gena Rowlands and Sean Connery head the cast as a mature couple approaching their 40th wedding anniversary, and they're so superb together that it's a wonder no one ever thought of teaming them before. Their story is intercut with several others that are less interesting. Gillian Anderson is an insecure stage director who has been so unlucky in love that she's terrified of taking another chance. Madeline Stowe and Anthony Edwards are embroiled in a steamy extra-marital affair. Ellen Burstyn coming to terms with her son, Jay Mohr, who is dying of AIDS. Dennis Quaid is a drunk, telling sob stories to Nastassja Kinski, Patricia Clarkson, and even a compassionate drag queen, Alec Mapa. And sassy, spunky Angelina Jolie of Generation X finds herself flirting with a surly bystander, Ryan Phillippe, as she splits up with her boyfriend by phone in a nightclub. Reminiscent in structure of Alan Rudolph's "Welcome to L.A." and Robert Altman's "Short Cuts," it has the benefit of intelligent dialogue, Vilos Zsigmond's superb camerawork and John Barry's evocative score; predictably, some storylines work better than others. On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Playing by Heart" is an engaging ensemble 6, offering sentimental entertainment based on the many faces of love.

Copyright 1998 Susan Granger

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