Playing by Heart (1998)
Critic Consensus: It's overly talky, but Playing By Heart benefits from witty insights into modern relationships and strong performances from an esteemed cast.
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Critic Reviews for Playing by Heart
Carroll's characters spend so much time talking, albeit intelligently, that the connections they make seem peculiarly synthetic.
This charming romantic comedy with a Los Angeles setting cuts between seemingly unconnected miniplots the way some Robert Altman movies do.
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.
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.
The movie is consistently well-acted and features a gallery of characters so affable that it's difficult to actively dislike any of them, or, for that matter, the film as a whole.
For all its artificiality, Playing by Heart percolates with an earnest charm.
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.
A delightful little film with an A-list roster of stars and a convoluted tale of relationships, beginning and ending and at a crossroads. I found myself caring about these characters, every one of them damaged goods in some way, but all of them looking for someone to love and to be loved by. A little bit schmaltzy at times, but its heart is in the right place and I dug it.
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.
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