Playing by Heart (1998) - Rotten Tomatoes

Playing by Heart (1998)

Playing by Heart



Critic Consensus: It's overly talky, but Playing By Heart benefits from witty insights into modern relationships and strong performances from an esteemed cast.

Playing by Heart Trailers & Photos

Movie Info

Sophomore writer/director Willard Carroll weaves together an all-star cast in interlocking stories about finding love in Los Angeles. The film's theme is spoken by young club-hopper Joan (Angelina Jolie). Taken by the mysterious Keenan (Ryan Phillippe), she tells him that "talking about love" is like "dancing about architecture" (the original title until the studio thought it would be confused with Dancing at Lughnasa), meaning speech is not the medium to adequately express the details of love. They all try, anyway. Others up for the dance include a TV cooking-show hostess (Gena Rowlands) and her husband (Sean Connery) who still fight over his one brief infidelity 25 years earlier; two lovers (Madeline Stowe, Anthony Edwards) who discuss their unhappy marriages; and a theater director (Gillian Anderson) and her architect, Mr. Right (Jon Stewart). Also searching are Dennis Quaid, Nastassja Kinski and Patricia Clarkson. For a familial sort of love, there's Ellen Burstyn as the estranged mother to her son (Jay Mohr) dying of AIDS.more
Rating: R
Genre: Drama, Romance, Comedy
Directed By:
Written By: Willard Carroll
In Theaters:
On DVD: Oct 2, 2001


Matt Malloy
as Desk Clerk
Tim Halligan
as Director, Cook Show
Jeremy Sisto
as Malcolm
David Ferguson
as Drag Queen
Joel McCrary
as Bartender, Drag Bar
Worthie Meacham
as 2nd Drag Queen Perfo...
Hal Landon Jr.
as Actor `Commissioner'
Marc Allen Lewis
as Actor `Harpagon'
Ron Boussom
as Actor `Jacques'
Daniel Chodos
as Actor `Anselme'
Mark Lewis
as Waiter
Jim Abele
as Doctor
Marcus Printop
as Trumpet Player
Larry Antonio
as Bass Player
Robert English
as Saxophonist
Ryo Okumuto
as Pianist
Show More Cast

News & Interviews for Playing by Heart

Critic Reviews for Playing by Heart

All Critics (55) | Top Critics (14)

Carroll's characters spend so much time talking, albeit intelligently, that the connections they make seem peculiarly synthetic.

Full Review… | March 26, 2009
Top Critic

This charming romantic comedy with a Los Angeles setting cuts between seemingly unconnected miniplots the way some Robert Altman movies do.

Full Review… | June 3, 2006
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

All of these characters are more interesting when things are going badly for them than when the tide has turned, and Carroll's determination to make the final reel an extended bout of audience tummy tickling is disappointingly conventional.

Full Review… | June 3, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

If Playing by Heart is the kind of film that used to be known as a "woman's picture," it certainly provides more emotional nourishment than most other mainstream movies generate these days.

Full Review… | February 14, 2001
Los Angeles Times
Top Critic

Carroll's milieu is resolutely middle class and the crises encountered all too predictable.

Full Review… | June 18, 2012
Sight and Sound

A very slight and inoffensive movie. It's a lot like L.A. itself, all surface, soothing and warm.

Full Review… | June 3, 2006
Combustible Celluloid

Audience Reviews for Playing by Heart

A passable yet rather predictable romantic drama that, despite a top-notch cast, seems more interested in its element of surprise at the end, reducing all the complexity of its situations and themes to a happy ending where everything works out and is wrapped up in easy fashion.

Carlos Magalh„es

Super Reviewer


I'm a bit confused as to why "Playing By Heart" has faded into oblivion since it debuted in 1998. First off, the cast is impeccable. "Playing By Heart" should be remembered for getting some of contemporary cinema's finest actors on screen together. Gillian Anderson, Angelina Jolie, Madeleine Stowe, Ellen Burstyn, Sean Connery, Anthony Edwards, Dennis Quaid, Gena Rowlands, Ryan Phillippe, Jay Mohr and Jon Stewart (yes, THAT Jon Stewart, who is shockingly great here) are all terrific. There is not a single weak spot in the ensemble. What's funny is that the actors are all so good that it almost seems like they are daring each other to top the next. Jolie, in an early performance, steals the whole picture, though. If this was not a showcase for what was to come, I don't know what is. The story is something we have seen before, mostly from the likes of Robert Altman, but none of it is ever trite or offensive. It's all played out with such grace and nuance that even it's somewhat conventional ending is welcomed. If you like movies about a group of interconnected people working through their lives and dealing with love and making connections (admittedly my favorite genre), then "Playing By Heart" is for you. I also recommend it on the merits of that incredible cast and the endlessly enticing dialogue. It all makes for a magical, resonant and sweet picture about the many sides of love.

Steven Carrier

Super Reviewer

To my suprise this was good, Cheesy yes but also impressive

Arash Xak

Super Reviewer

Playing by Heart Quotes

– Submitted by Ricardo Erick R (3 years ago)

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