If I could meet a lump collective of famous people, a great place to start would be the cast of Playing By Heart. I don't remember hearing "boo" about this movie. Nada, nuttin, zilch. Every single character is portrayed by a famous actor. And quite well I might add, I really enjoyed the depth brought to each performance.
Playing By Heart is a relationship movie. It's also billed as a romantic comedy on the video jacket. I beg to differ. It's a drama if I've ever seen one. Playing By Heart deals with some very complex relationship issues in a direct, honest manner. The intensity of the relationship formats is engrossing.
The movie is set up in a variety of pairings, not all of which are romantically linked. The relationships that are romantic, represent a wide spectrum of ages, and stages in such a relationship.
We meet Hannah (Gena Rowlands) and Paul (Sean Connery). They've been married forty years. Their relationship is in a state of flux almost from the very start of the movie. Their story is evidence that, even after all those years of marriage, there are things to discover about your spouse. The notion that Paul might still be carrying a torch for an old flame is a bone of contention between he and Hannah. One example of their combativeness is when Paul remarks, "It's been almost twenty-four hours since we traded barbs. We don't want to get rusty do we?"
Then there's Joan (Angelina Jolie) and Keenan (Ryan Phillippe). They are the young, wild twenty-somethings who discover each other in the L.A. club scene. Keenan is withdrawn and anti-social where Joan is boisterous and the poster child for high drama, her every life event intensely scrutinized for anyone who will listen. Joan keeps doing her level best to work her way into Keenan's life while he puts forth the same effort pushing her away. At one point, he finally tells her, "This isn't anything. This will never be anything." Meredith (Gillian Anderson), on the other hand, pushes men away because of a long history of being burned in relationships, or as she puts it, "scalded repeatedly". She is a theatre director who has been keeping herself consumed with work, but when she pulls a bookshelf down on herself at the library, an architect named Trent uses the opportunity to ask her out on a date.
He maintains that, "I'm not just asking you out to dinner as a preemptive strike against litigation." Despite her steadfastness to the contrary, she accepts, saying, "Anyone who can say preemptive strike against litigation with a straight face deserves a dinner companion."
Theirs becomes a rollercoaster relationship of her pushing him away and him not accepting her attempts to shut him out. Meredith makes some interesting observations about the dating process that anyone who is dating or has ever dated may find refreshingly honest. So much of the dating process is calculated artificiality. She even admits to Trent, that before their first date, she had been on the phone with her sister coming up with a psychological profile for him.
Perhaps the most intense relationship in the movie is a mother-son pairing. Mildred (Ellen Burstyn) is the mother to a gay son, Mark (Jay Mohr). He is in the hospital dying of, it is assumed, AIDS. His final wishes are to start their relationship over, being honest with each other and sharing some of their thoughts with each other. She, and the rest of Mark's family, had been in denial about his being gay, and he doesn't want his last days to be full of her denial about his dying. Some powerful and moving scenes between them.
As a mother with sons, the most moving moment was when he asked her to tell him a story. He wants to hear the last part of "Goodnight Moon". My boys have this book. We read it quite often. The thought of speaking those words to one of them as they lay dying in my arms tore through my heart. She also reflects on the time she was pregnant with him. These are instances that all you moms out there will be hard-pressed not to have tears streaming down your cheeks.
Among the other characters are Gracie (Madeleine Stowe) and Roger (Anthony Edwards), who are both married and having an affair. There is also Hugh (Dennis Quaid), who spends his nights going from bar to bar, telling tall tales of woe to any woman who will listen to him. Their relationships are evidence of the understanding one tries to have about what they are doing and why.
Why do some people love each other? How does it happen? Joan considers something a friend had told her once. "Talking about love is like dancing about architecture." She maintains that, however true that statement is, she's still going to try to talk about love anyway. On the flip side, Paul recalls the advice Joan had given their children about falling in love. "The wonderful thing about falling in love is you learn everything about that person and so quickly. And if it's true love, then you start to see yourself through their eyes. And it brings out the best in you. It's almost as if you're falling in love with yourself."
Playing By Heart is honest and genuine. Some of the honesty manifests itself in some big-time swearing and sexual innuendo, hence the "R" rating. It's a drama in the sense that relationships are dramas with light-hearted comedic moments to equal the playing field. It's about falling in love. It's about not wanting to fall in love but falling in love anyway.