The Brunching Shuttlecocks Features

Being the highly important movie critic that I am, movie studios often ask me for my opinion on their works in progress. They give me huge sheets and ask me to write down anything that I liked or disliked about a film that may be months away from release. They know that I have the pulse of the nation, that I am the voice of American Film.

Back in December, I saw a pre-screening of a film which has just recently been released, and, seeing as how I liked the movie, I felt that it was time to give you, my loyal fans, my thoughts on this film, the ensemble romantic comedy/drama, Playing By Heart.

Remember, however, that I saw a screening of this film almost two months ago, and there may have been some changes between what I saw and what was finally released. So if I mention something that isn't in the final print, I apologize.

Playing By Heart stars everyone and their dog. It is a very Altman-esque piece where we follow a number of different stories based on the same theme. In this case, the director took the theme of relationships and explored all the different ways we interact with our loved ones.

Critics will probably spend a lot of ink telling you how great Sean Connery was in this movie. Yes, he was quite good. But come on, he's Sean Connery. You expect him to be good. He's always good. Hell, he's even good when the movie is horrible (ala Avengers). Saying that Sean Connery was good is like saying Mother Theresa was a nice woman. Well duh. Go out on a limb guys!

You know who I thought just kicked some serious acting butt? Jon Stewart. He's a comic who used to have his own talk show and has now taken over for Comedy Central's The Daily Show. In this film, he is so incredibly charming and warm that you'll think you're watching William Hurt or some other smarmy do-gooder. His relationship is with Gillian Anderson (The X-Files' Scully). And while I thought it was a bit of a cheap shot to discover that Anderson's character was actually a visiting Alien here on earth investigating love, their scenes were fun to watch, none the less.

OK, back to Connery. His scenes with Gena Rowlands are a lot of fun. They are a married couple who suddenly take a strong interest into an affair he may or may not have had 25 years ago. True, I could have done without all the secret agent references, but when he finally guns down Rowlands, who turns out to be a KGB spy, I was moved.

In fact, the primary weakness of this film was the Director's constant attention to previous roles his actors had portrayed. Case in point, in the Whoopi Goldberg-Christopher Reeve scenes, Whoopi is constantly calling wheelchair-bound Christopher a "super man." It was also a rather-anticlimactic sequence, since Whoopi spends the whole movie trying to convince Christopher to walk, and of course, we all know that he can't. Where's the drama?

Still, the movie (all 4 1/2 hours of it) has a lot going for it. There's literally something in it for everyone. The aging hipsters relate to Sean and Gena, the physically crippled relate to Whoopi and Christopher, the emotionally crippled relate to Dennis Quaid, and there's even a storyline for the kiddies.

Angelina Jolie (best known as the drug-addled supermodel Gia in the cable movie "Gia," based on the life story of drug-addled supermodel, Gia) and Ryan Phillippe (best known for taking some of his clothes off in the drug-addled disco movie "54," based on the true story of drug-addled disco club 54.) are a couple of young'ns looking for love. Actually, Angelina is looking for love, Ryan isn't looking for much of anything. This is an interesting story, with some interesting twists and turns and some interesting costumes. One thing this storyline has in abundance is naked flesh and tawdry sex, which really grabs your attention, but at what cost? There is a loss of dignity here, and in my view, it hurts the film.

There are many more relationships in the film, some of them real tearjerkers (the plane crash sequence really hit home for me), all of which help to create a film which delivers quite an emotional impact. If you want to take your loved one to a film that will challenge your view of relationships, then this baby is for you. But be warned, you may never be able to look at your own relationship in the same way.

You definitely will not be able to look at Tinker Toys or vanilla pudding the same way ever again. Hubba-hubba!

I'm giving Playing By Heart 3 3/4 Babylons. This one's got some potent emotional stuff, and you should come prepared.

Editor's Note:

I saw this movie in it's regular release in the theater the other night (with a date), and I agree with the critic--Sean Connery steals the show, but the Martin Lawrence and Soleil Moon Frye cameos were priceless.

By the way, if you'd like to give the SMC's editor your thoughts on the editing of the SMC, please send me email at

Playing By Heart
Rated: R
Directed By: Willard Carroll
Starring: Gillian Anderson, Jon Stewart, Vanilla Ice, Sean Connery, Gena Rowlands, Mel Gibson, Jay Mohr, Ellen Burstyn, Angelina Jolie, Whoopi Goldberg, Ryan Phillippe, Madeleine Stowe, Dennis Franz, Anthony Edwards, Dennis Quaid, Christopher Reeve and Alanis Morissette as God.

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