Playing By Heart Review

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The lives of several Los Angelinos interweave in tales linked by the theme of love.


By turns amusing and touching, with a mouthwatering, cross-generational ensemble cast, this ambitious LA story from writer-producer turned director Carroll (Tom's Midnight Garden) juggles 11 main characters exploring love, confronting loss and accepting life. And they're very big on communicating, even though a key line observes, "Talking about love is like dancing about architecture." Well, they are Californian.

In the grey corner we have Sean Connery (sans toupee) and Gena Rowlands as the old married couple who are ignoring a doomy medical prognosis and probing a past indiscretion while producing a cookery programme. Then there are Angelina Jolie and Ryan Phillippe as the body-pierced club-goers with opposing personalities. She's upfront and inviting; he's offish and resisting. Finally, welcome Gillian Anderson and MTV/talk show fixture-turned-actor Jon Stewart she an intense stage director who's given up on love, he an easy-going architect who's got her under his skin.

As the story tracks and the moods skip from one couple's dialogues and perspectives to another's — also among these a mother (Burstyn) keeping a death vigil in her son's (Jay Mohr) hospital room, the adulterous trysts of a wife (Madeleine Stowe), and the bizarre bar-crawling behaviour of a man (Dennis Quaid) — it is obvious that eventually the connections between all these seemingly disparate lives will be revealed. The convergence of characters proves no stunning surprise, more of a contrivance that emphasises the fundamental phoniness of putting up a theme and then hanging characters off it. And even in LA, most people don't talk like this about the way and why they love.

In compensation, the teaming of Connery and Rowlands is magnetic and memorable. Burstyn also gives a class in screen class. Anderson's Meredith is bravely funny, babbling her pain and dread to her startled date, while the highly-charged Jolie is the most fun.

The sum of the parts is a cautiously optimistic view of love's power to re-shape lives, propounded with considerable appeal.