It was obviously the clout of Oscar winning director Sydney
Pollack (Out Of Africa, Tootsie, etc) that got this rather predictable
and unconvincing romantic drama a green light from the studios after
several years in pre-production and numerous script rewrites. It was
obviously the presence of Harrison Ford, the box office star of the
century, that has given this tired drama legs at the box office.
However, it will be poor word of mouth that will kill it within a
couple of weeks.
Despite his impressive string of box office hits, even Ford
occasionally picks a project that fails to live up to expectations.
Random Hearts is a disappointment, particularly given the calibre of
creative personnel involved.
The film centres around two people from different social
environments who are brought together in the aftermath of a plane
crash that kills their respective spouses. Dutch Van Der Broek (Ford)
is a tough, no-nonsense internal affairs officer with the Washington
DC police department. When his wife is killed in a tragic plane
crash, Van Der Broek learns that his wife had been deceiving him. She
had been travelling under an alias with a married man with whom she
was having an affair. Driven both by his personal sense of betrayal
and his policeman's instincts, Van Der Broek pursues his own personal
investigation into his wife's life, trying to piece together details
of her affair.
He finally uncovers the identity of her illicit lover, and
learns that he is the husband of Kay Chandler (Kristin Scott Thomas),
a congresswoman running for re-election. Kay, on the other hand, is
aware of the potential damage that could result from the affair
becoming public, and tries to squash the investigation. But sparks
soon fly between the pair, and they attempt to deal with their
confused emotions and sense of hurt and betrayal.
Unfortunately, the two leads lack any real chemistry, and
their romance lacks any genuine sense of passion. Ford gives a rather
tired, almost bored performance here, and he lacks the dynamism of
earlier films. Thomas is a veteran of epic romances (The English
Patient, The Horse Whisperer, etc), and her usual cold and aloof
persona is perfectly suited to her role here. She gives the stronger
performance of the two leads, although even she lacks any real depth.
Pollack has also wasted a strong ensemble cast in dull, mainly one
dimensional supporting roles.
Pollack's direction has rarely been as pedestrian or as
uninspired as it is here. The film is a good half hour too long for
its rather slim scenario, and the pace is often a little sluggish.
The rather clichéd subplot concerning Ford's investigation of a
rather sticky murder and a corrupt cop jars with the romance. It
seems tacked on almost as an afterthought, a desperate attempt to beef
up a thin plot that is clearly struggling to sustain interest.
Copyright © 1999 Harvey Karten