Playing by Heart - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Playing by Heart Reviews

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July 3, 2016
When you bring out the big guns for your giant 90's romcom acting ensemble: Jay Mohr and Jon Stewart.
½ December 31, 2015
"Playing By Heart" is Robert Altman lite, talky, ensemble-driven fare where comedy and romance come easily but not necessarily believably, warmly but not always invitingly. It's faux deep and desperate to be insightful regarding the pains of modern love. The movie is more of an exercise than it is a film, a chance for its sophisticated actors to exchange witty bits and pieces of dialogue and for writer/director Willard Carroll to microphone his talents as someone with an ear for rich, almost musical conversation. It's minor, sure. But it's attractive and easy to engage with, good until rugs are pulled out from under each promising storyline in favor of cringeworthy sentimentality.
And considering how many storylines characterize the film, such a factor is displeasing; "Playing By Heart" is delightful before the time comes to wrap things up. Then and there do we have to decide if its last few moments are going to take away from the joys coming previously. In the film, interweaving tales of love in Los Angeles tangle, all well-acted (the cast is scrumptiously starry) but differing in terms of success. Couples range from young to old, happy to depressed, content to empty (but mostly empty) - the most resonant narrative follows Joan (Angelina Jolie) and Keenan (Ryan Phillippe), young club-hoppers who carry loneliness they downplay; Joan is a quirky flibbertigibbet, Keenan a secretive loner. They need each other, the former realizing it much more than her object of affection.
Another focuses on Hannah (Gena Rowlands) and Paul (Sean Connery), an old married couple approaching their fortieth wedding anniversary and marital trouble. Paul confesses to have had an affair during the middle years of the union, though he assures his wife that his love for her grew stronger because of it. Right.
More of the film, in the meantime, is spent with characters in underdeveloped, or, at worst, uninteresting storylines, those involving couples played by Gillian Anderson and Jon Stewart (in which a burgeoning romance is burdened by irritating distrust on the former's part), and Madeleine Stowe and Anthony Edwards (where parties to an affair begin to reflect on their realities). A particular character (Dennis Quaid), whose relation to these people is revealed later, goes from bar to bar pretending he's someone he isn't; a touching detour revolves around a mother (Ellen Burstyn) dealing with the final days of her AIDS afflicted son (Jay Mohr).
How the individuals of "Playing By Heart" are ultimately associated is ingenious enough for us to want to hit ourselves for not guessing the connections earlier. So it's too bad that facts are revealed a while after most of the storylines have defined themselves as being love stories unafraid to climax in made-for-TV predictability. Carroll spends so much time flashing his writing talents that we expect that this is going to be something akin to a minor Woody Allen classic - why he takes the romance novel way out results in a head-scratch edged out with a little bit of blood. This could have been a subversive romantic comedy classic had he trusted his talents more.
He's got the actors to prove it. The cast is unbelievably noteworthy, Angelina Jolie standing out in particular as a twenty-something with a personality so divine and smart you'd swear her character were based on an old flame of Carroll. Bluntly, Joan is the only portion of "Playing By Heart" that doesn't feel playfully phony, Jolie delivering her director's slippery dialogue as if someone would really speak like a Broadway oddity. Why Joan so quickly falls in love with the mostly personality-less Keenan is baffling. She could have had a film all to herself.
But as "Playing By Heart" is like "Magnolia" era Paul Thomas Anderson minus the heaviness, the cast is integral, and, here, are well-suited for this sort of material (playing similarly to likable Off-Broadway). They don't disappoint - the film's faults move in the direction of Carroll, who shows compelling talent but isn't as sure of himself as we are of him. "Playing By Heart" is not anything besides breezy, bubbling entertainment with a taste for the saccharine. Whether you're sold by it is up to you.
June 9, 2015
One of my favorite movies!
½ April 4, 2015
A really good movie, but really depressing. Plot lines include brain tumors, AIDS, and cheating wives. Ugh. But the all star cast makes it imminently watchable! Sean Connery is his usual awesome suave and debonair self, and his chemistry with Gena Rowlands is magic! And Angelina Jolie is really good and super cute! It would be emotionally hard to watch this again, but it sure got rid of my "anger ball"!
March 4, 2015
I was actually an extra in this movie and other than it having Angelia & Ryan Phillippe, and a bunch of great actors...? The movie itself really is NOT Good :( Oh wait! Some of the dialogue is really awesome, overly pedantic..? But awesome :)
February 13, 2015
A favorite for me...great writing about relationships brought to life by outstanding acting. Stellar cast giving stellar performances.
½ January 8, 2015
Best part about this movie is the font on the credits. Definitely a Chick-flick that has not aged gracefully.
½ November 6, 2014
I really could never get into this enough to finish it, so after a couple of months, I deleted it. :::shrug:::
Super Reviewer
August 22, 2014
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.
July 23, 2014
I'ts one of those typical cases in which the movie is better recieved by the audience than the criticts. I'm glad to see that me, as part of the audience, I share my peer's view. It's always nice to see Sean Connery.
½ May 17, 2014
This ensemble comedy-drama about the romantic troubles of interconnected couples in Los Angeles is Robert Altman-lite. Writer-director Willard Carroll has assembled a superb cast but his insistence on reassuring audiences with simplistic resolutions and a love conquers all message is exasperating. Sean Connery and Gena Rowlands are an older married couple about to renew their vows but are conflicted by a past infidelity; two young couples (Jon Stewart and Gillian Anderson, Ryan Phillippe and Angelina Jolie) are confronted with commitment fears; a disapproving mother (Ellen Burstyn) comforts her son (Jay Mohr) dying of AIDS; a professor (Dennis Quaid) relates his tragic life story to a woman (Patricia Clarkson) in a bar; another couple (Anthony Edwards, Madeline Stowe) is having an affair. Connery and Rowlands have a wonderful rapport that is a delight to watch, but the reason to see the movie is Angelina Jolie. As a loquacious, struggling young actress with short spiked hair and pouty lips, Jolie is electrifying. Playing off the dull Ryan Phillippe, she expresses the vulnerability beneath the demonstrative appearance and is completely convincing in her affections. Cinematography is by Vilmos Zsigmond; Music is by John Barry; Editing is by Pietro Scalia.
½ April 4, 2014
A warm and moving film about all the forms of love and the heartbreak and happiness love can bring. A great cast tell divergent love stories that all come together in the end.
March 30, 2014
Boring even with the famous actors. Pass.
February 16, 2014
Still prob one of the best and truest to life ensemble films of the early 2000's about dating and top 5 on the Jolie movie scale (also top five on the "I've dated her" scale).
½ January 15, 2014
Finding love in modern days L.A isn't an easy thing. Reuniting a stellar cast Carooll directs this comedy with obvious passion for it's subject & a great deal of communicative energy. It's not a masterpiece but it's nice to watch it once.
November 19, 2013
My 2nd favorite romantic comedy, after Moonstruck.
Super Reviewer
½ August 30, 2013
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.
½ August 11, 2013
This was a sappy and adorable love story about a husband and wife and their daughter's journey to find love.
May 2, 2013
These types of films rarely work. It was great seeing Gillian Anderson though, one of the most appealing and underused actors out there.
March 26, 2013
An all star cast converses intelligently about many facets of love and relationship in this enjoyable romantic comedy, though the attempt at establishing connections among the characters seemed a bit forced.
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