Netflix52: Playing By Heart

Playing By Heart (R)PBH

Genre : Comedy, Drama, Romance
Tagline : If romance is a mystery, there’s only one way to figure it out.
Starring : Angelina Jolie, Sean Connery, Gena Rowlands, Gillian Anderson, Ryan Phillippe, Madaleine Stowe, Dennis Quaid, Ellen Burstyn, Jay Mohr, Anthony Edwards
Running Time : 121 Minutes
Director : Willard Carroll
Producer : Willard Carroll, Meg Liberman, Bob Weinstein, Harvey Weinstein

Eleven articulate people work through affairs of the heart in L.A. Paul produces Hannah’s TV cooking show, and they must move beyond gentle barbs when she wants to know about an affair of his years ago. Mark is dying of AIDS, and his mother comes to his bedside: they must talk truthfully. Men have scalded Meredith so she rebuffs Trent’s charm, but he persists. The trendy, prolix Joan tries to pull the solitary Keenan into her orbit: why is he reluctant? An adulterous couple meet at hotels for evening sex, but she is unwilling for the relationship to grow. Hugh tells tall tales, usually tragic, to women in bars. By the week’s end, their parallel stories converge.

This star-studed character driven ensemble movie is one of my favorites.  It is the kind of movie that my husband gets bored during because the entire movie focuses on trying to give the viewer a glimpse of real human nature.  This movie is about relationships.  Whether it is the couple who has been married for decades, a young woman with a big personality looking for someone to love her, a theater director who pushes away every man who comes near her, a mother and her gay son who is dying of AIDS trying to get to know each other again before he dies, a man who seems to only be able to lie to the women he meets, or a couple navigating the intricacies  of having an extramarital affair.  We get the opportunity to meet these people and learn what makes them tick.

Since I was a little girl I have been  people watcher.  My very poor grandmother used to take me to the mall when I was younger to people watch.  She always had a way of making me think that things that were inexpensive or free were so exciting.  She was an amazing woman.  Aside from teaching me how to make anything more fun just by adjusting my attitude, she taught me to enjoy the art of people watching.  She taught me to escape my lonely life for minutes at a time and escape into the imaginary world I made up for the people around me.  I have always been fascinated with the dynamics of relationships and I think it started with her and her free outings to the mall.  Maybe that same escape is what I find so appealing about movies in general but especially about character driven movies.

I think this is an excellent example of people watching in the movies.  Watching Hannah (Gena Rowlands) and Paul (Sean Connery) try to work through the difficulties of a longtime marriage reminds me of how much work marriage is and why that work is so worth it in the end.  Watching Joan (Angelina Jolie) optimistically looking for a companion (Ryan Phillippe) while being consistently disappointed reminds me of my twenties.  Seeing Meredith (Gillian Anderson) lose hope in ever finding someone she can trust even when that someone (John Stewart) is right in front of her was the other side of how I reacted to my twenties.  Watching Mark (Jay Mohr) finally be honest with his mother (Ellen Burstyn) and her longing to have known him before it was too late reminds me of too many of my friends and the relationships they might never have with their families.  The only people I didn’t see some sort of kinship with was the cheating couple (Madeline Stowe and Anthony Edwards) and the drunk (Dennis Quaid) who was always lying to women, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy trying to understand what was motivating their bad behavior.

Whether I was watching complete strangers or seeing a glimpse of myself or someone I love, I loved every minute of this movie.  I enjoyed the few surprises especially the way these characters intersect in the end.  I thought Will Carroll did a great job of showing the humanity that each one possesses without going overboard.  There are a few scenes that top my list of perfect observations in to the human psyche and a few that are just perfect in what they portray.  This is two hours well spent.  If you like to people watch, this is the closest thing to going to the mall with your grandmother and escaping into the lives of others.  And if that isn’t your thing then it is an enjoyably woven story of people struggling to find themselves in the people around them, because in the end that is all life is.

Distributed : Miramax Films
Released : December 18,1998
Budget : $14,000,000
Box Office : $3,970,078
Tomatometer : 62% Critic, 75% Audience

Favorite Scene : The scene with Jay Mohr and Ellen Burstyn were he asks her to read him Goodnight Moon.  The scene is a little too contrived, but the thought of it being real gets me every time.  It is one of my all time favorite imageries from a movie.
Favorite Quote : “The lad doesn’t say much, and when he does, he finds just the right words to crush my soul. Of course I’m crazy about him.”
Awards : Breakthrough Performance Female for Angelina Jolie-National Board of Review

Fun Facts :

  1. If They Only Knew was the working title of the film.
  2. The original title was Dancing About Architecture until the studio thought it would be confused with Dancing At Lughnasa.  The movie still contains the line from which this title was taken: “Talking about music is like dancing about architecture.”
  3. The film contains spoilers for Midnight Lace, Citizen Kane, Psycho and Suddenly, Last Summer.
  4. The house Jon Stewart‘s character lives in is the same house used for Tim Allen‘s character in Galaxy Quest and Colin Firth‘s character in Where the Truth Lies, to name a few. It is known as ”Case Study House #22, aka Stahl House” and is in the Hollywood Hills section of Los Angeles.
  5. Throughout the entire movie, whenever there is a scene (and there are many) involving martinis, between shots the olives and level of vodka in the glass change.
  6. Although Joan’s cat is called Blanche and is consistently referred to as “she”, the actual animal is a male.
  7.  It was entered into the 49th Berlin International Film Festival.
  8. Writer and Director William Carroll Executive Produced the Brave Little Toaster series.

4 responses to “Netflix52: Playing By Heart

  1. I love these every week. I only wish I had more time to watch movies. If I get sick I’m going to just watch Netflix52 for days 🙂

  2. Oooh this sounds good. I will totally watch this now haha

  3. If you get sick Jason, let me know and I will put them order of awesomeness 🙂

  4. Jeremiah Sierra

    Going to watch this sometime. I especially like the bit about your grandmother and recognizing yourself in the characters.

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