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A fine ensemble cast is assembled for this warm-hearted series of interconnected stories about people’s relationships. They are in search for love, lust and fulfilment and it’s set in modern-day Los Angeles. The theme is not earth- shattering, but explores aspects of long-held secrets and self-discovery. But remember who’s in the cast and you’ll begin to realize the exceptional acting capabilities and perhaps why it’s very watchable.
Paul (Sean Connery) and Hannah (Gena Rowlands) play the oldest couple. Even though you wouldn’t think so by looking at him, Paul is dying and she has suddenly discovered, through an old photograph, that he had an affair many years ago. It’s an interesting exercise in witnessing a couple, married for forty years, who thought they knew everything about each other. The youngest couple features two of the best young actors in Hollywood, Angelina Jolie, who plays Joan, and Ryan Phillippe, as Kennan. In today’s more complex world, they seem emotionally mismatched in their search for companionship. The director seems to take a more prominent look at these two characters. Jolie is wonderfully alive and sassy and Phillippe stands by admirably to help make a believable modern couple. The best heartfelt lines are reserved for these two.
Gillian Anderson plays a theatre director who has seemingly given up on love after a disastrous romantic history. Yet, she is being pursued by Trent (Jon Stewart) whose general good demeanour often gives way to his natural impatient feelings. Their performances are quite good though. Madeleine Stowe, as Gracie, and Anthony Edwards, as Roger, are very unappealing as a couple who are cheating on their respective spouses. Their story gets very tired quickly. Mildred (Ellen Burstyn) expresses a different kind of love to her dying son Mark (Jay Mohr). He has AIDS and is confined to his last days of suffering. She is trying to reacquaint herself with the gay son she never knew.
The film works quite well, as there is no main plot. There are mini-plots seemingly unconnected, and you have some old brilliance being displayed by Connery, Burstyn and Rowlands, while exhibiting the freshest talent of today in Jolie, Phillippe and Mohr. John Barry’s jazzy score is a pleasant backdrop to the story’s movement, and, overall, Playing By Heart will enteretain with a fast and quirky dialogue.