First-time writer/director Willard Carroll has marshalled quite a cast for this ensemble piece about life and love in contemporary Los Angeles. There's Sean Connery and Gena Rowlands as the long-married couple bickering about past infidelities. There's Gillian Anderson as a theatre director insecure about men until Jon Stewart comes along. Dennis Quaid has a recurring role as a barfly whose tales of misfortune grow ever more baroque with each retelling; Madeline Stowe and Anthony Edwards find some satisfaction in their strictly physical affair; while Ellen Burstyn is the mum facing up to son Jay Mohr's terminal AIDS. Providing the keynote line for all of them is clubber Angelina Jolie, who, having landed bewitched and bewildered Ryan Phillippe, informs him that 'talking about love is like dancing about architecture'. Although the screenplay's resourcefulness in threading it all together is to be admired, it's the cast who provide the pleasures, what with Connery and Rowland's luxurious ease on screen together, the sheer Day-Glo energy emanating from Jolie, and Anderson's expertly judged portrait of a smart woman who can't figure out why her life's such a mess. The trouble is that all of these characters are more interesting when things are going badly for them than when the tide has turned, and Carroll's determination to make the final reel an extended bout of audience tummy tickling is disappointingly conventional. Compared to Alan Rudolph's exotic, tantalising meditations on a similar theme, it's all a bit meat-and-potatoes.
Playing by Heart
Cast and crew