Playing by Heart

Bomb Rating: 

A request by Miramax on the first page of the "Playing by Heart" pressnotes reads, "We ask that when writing or talking about 'Playing By Heart,' you help us to keep the mystery of the film intact for the audience by not revealing the film's ending or the nature of its many intricate relationships." To Miramax, two words: Eat me. Here's the ending: Meredith (Gillian Anderson), having become utterly confused by her relationship with an architect, Trent (Jon Stewart), wanders into a field intent on killing herself and is abducted by space aliens.

Prior to being abducted by the space aliens, Meredith does go through various machinations with Trent, complementing the even less interesting troubles of the film's other lost couples: Joan (Angelina Jolie) and Keenan (Ryan Phillippe), Gracie (Madeleine Stowe) and her secret lover Roger (Anthony Edwards), and Hannah (Gena Rowlands) and Paul (Sean Connery). There's also Gracie's husband, Hugh (Dennis Quaid), who's running from bar to bar.

Writer/director/producer/caterer Willard ("Tom's Midnight Garden") Carroll's main point about love in the '90s is that it's confusing and disconnected. He patterns the style of his film on this very theme by rapidly cutting between characters in an attempt to achieve the kind of continuity one gets by strolling through the Museum of Modern Art after dropping six tabs of acid.

Meredith's abduction by space aliens would be an utterly random act which wouldn't make a lot of sense, but it makes more sense than the intermittent experiences of this movie's characters. When "Playing by Heart" ends, it goes out with a gimmick. It prompted one woman in my theater to blurt out the obvious -- as though Meredith had just been abducted and she screamed out "Meredith's just been abducted!" Essentially, the film ends screaming out the obvious -- that four sets of people, to be involved in a story, must be related in some way.

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