FILM PHONICS: “PLAYING BY HEART”

Word of the Week: Lay

PLAYING BY HEART

* * *

Director & Writer: Willard Carroll

Producers: Willard Carroll, Meg Liberman, and Thomas L. Wilhite

Starring: Angelina Jolie, Sean Connery, Gena Rowlands, Gillian Anderson, John Stewart, Madeleine Stowe, Dennis Quaid, Anthony Edwards, Ryan Phillippe, Ellen Burstyn, and Jay Mohr.

1999

Playing…by Heart

Pom-poms in the air, derrieres prancing like they didn’t care, and human pyramids assembling and dismantling along to the bass line, I had my cheerleaders on the side of “sea.” At the very last moment, however, “lay” landed a triple salchow-triple flip combination, and thus received the most points for technical merit, beating out “sea” and “dot.” Incidentally, each of these words represents a factor that has contributed to how I pick the five contestants for the weekly Film Phonics poll. “Sea” instantly conjured several film titles (“City by the Sea,” “Sea of Love,” “Beyond the Sea”); “dot” only brought to mind one (“FeardotCom”); and “lay” was featured prominently in the chorus of a Chinese pop song I was listening to at the time (“lay your love around me/you know what to do”). The movie I would watch and review for the fourth week of Film Phonics was either going to be “Layer Cake” or “Playing by Heart.” I went with the latter.

When I saw theatrical previews of “Playing by Heart” (Willard Carol, 1999) I was much wanted to see it. I don’t remember if it ever came out in theatres in Atlanta, it may have, but I never got around to watching it. Even when it was rentable, I somehow didn’t leap at the chance to get it until yesterday. The film stars Sean Connery, Gena Rowlands, Gillian Anderson, John Stewart, Madeleine Stowe, Dennis Quaid, Anthony Edwards, Angelina Jolie, Ryan Phillippe, Ellen Burstyn, and Jay Mohr. This eclectic cast portrays an ensemble of people who cope with hardships. The film explores the relationships of these characters by pairing them. For instance, Sean Connery and Gena are a married couple about to celebrate their 40th anniversary; Ellen Burstyn plays the mother of Jay Mohr, a gay man dying of AIDS.

One of the strengths of this film is that it never stays on one set of characters so long that you get bored, but it’s probable that you’ll be biased towards specific characters. I found myself more interested in Gillian Anderson and John Stewart, and Angelina Jolie and Ryan Phillippe’s stories than I was with the others. Gillian’s heart has been broken so many times that she doesn’t trust men and is convinced that John Stewart will burn her too. Angelina Jolie is trying to persuade Ryan Phillippe to be with her because she doesn’t believe him when he says he doesn’t date.

I wanted both these sets of characters to hook up with each other, and when they finally did, I found myself gagging and a bit peeved. I know that it’s how the romantic comedy develops, but I didn’t buy how easily everything fell into place at the precise moment that Ryan Phillippe realized that he couldn’t get Angelina Jolie out of his head, and the mere sight of her made him happy; or when Gillian Anderson finally admitted that John Stewart is actually a good guy and that he wouldn’t make her sad. I loved these moments as isolated units of human interaction, but the way the characters snuggled up so intimately following the declarations of attraction sent me diving for a cushion to cover my face.

I’ve never been much of a romantic comedy fan. In fact, the only example from the recent past and present that I think is a good film is Norman Jewison’s 1994 film “Only You” starring an especially lovely Marisa Tomei and a kinda-cute Robert Downey Jr.

I have nothing against love, but I’d like it to be something that makes me sick with envy. If see a movie, and it makes me think that marriage isn’t so bad and that I could go to sleep and wake up to the same face everyday until one of us dies…..I will be amazed.

Although i must be honest, after i watched this movie, i wished someone like john stewart’s character would invite me to masticate.

Every week, Stina Chyn puts her viewing habits in your hands. Readers vote on five random words posted at Back Talk every Tuesday. The winning word dictates what she will have to watch and review the following week as that word must appear in the title of the movie. Choose wisely!




Posted on September 13, 2005 in Features by
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