Gillian Anderson
Angelina Jolie
Madelaine Stowe
Anthony Edwards
Ryan Phillipe
Gena Rowlands
Sean Connery
Dennis Quaid
Jon Stewart

Willard Carroll


Time: 121 Minutes
Rating: R
Genre: Drama/Romance

I heard mixed things about this film before I went to see it and now I know why. It has some very interesting things to say about love and really covers the gamut of relationships, but it only scratches the surface of these characters and that was disappointing. Just when you started getting emotionally involved in one of the couples' stories, the film jumped to another. I know they were all part of one family, but they don't show them all together until the end, so the relationships are disparate and disjointed.

The one thing that kept my interest was the acting. I was pleasantly surprised by most of the performances: Sean Connery showed he could play a human being, Gillian Anderson was funny and vulnerable, Jon Stewart proved he could act and was charming to boot, Anthony Edwards becomes something of a sex symbol, Ryan Phillippe proved he's more than just a pretty face and Angelina Jolie showed that you could be weird and quirky without being completely annoying.

The film basically explores the lives of a Los Angeles family – parents and three adult daughters – as they try to find and keep love in the big city. The parents, Paul (Connery) and Hannah (Rowlands), are forced to re-evaluate their relationship in the wake of drastically bad news. Paul has a brain tumor, which is going to kill him sooner rather than later, and despite the implications he decides to continue living his life like he always has. No changes. This news destroys Hannah's world and though she's not sure she can live in denial of his illness, he gives her no choice.

When she pushes the matter, she discovers that Paul was in love with someone they worked with 15 years earlier. Though he never slept with the other woman, Hannah can't understand or forgive him for his "affair." He can't understand why she's so upset. It was a long time ago and in the end he choose to stay with her. After all, they've been together for 40 years, which they're having a party to celebrate, what does it matter anymore?




"Don't look at me with that tone of voice."

Their three daughters, Grace (Stowe), Meredith (Anderson) and Joan (Jolie) are having problems of their own. Grace is having an affair with Roger (Edwards) because she finds her marriage and husband (Quaid) lack the spontaneity and imagination she craves. Meredith is a theater director who has been so unlucky in love that when she meets a great guy, Trent (Stewart), she dooms the relationship before it even begins. Joan, a budding actress, lives with her heart on her sleeve, falling for a guy who's nice to her but refuses to let her into his life.

All are strong-willed women who think they are in control of their lives, but the more they try to maneuver the more elusive the men who love them become. None of these characters or relationships are perfect. They all have problems that aren't going to be solved in a day. But in the end, they realize that sometimes the one thing you need is standing right in front of you. They all regain their hope that love can survive and grow.

PLAYING BY HEART has a lot to say about love and relationships and it says it well. Some of the situations were new, some as old as time, some funny, some heartbreaking. All true in spirit. The dialogue and acting are what make this film worthwhile. The cast is great, really putting their hearts and souls into the film, giving it more emotion and weight than it might have had otherwise. If you're in the mood for a smart, touching and occasionally funny film, this is one you should see...but don't expect too much.

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