Eleven articulate people work through affairs of the heart in L.A.
I can see why some people would be intrigued and very excited to see a film like 'Playing By Heart.' Mostly, it's because the ensemble cast includes some of the biggest names in the entertainment industry acting in a film which resembles a sort of 'Pulp Fiction' of love, meaning there are several different plots and characters in play, all of which seem to intersect at some point in time and all have something in common.
Director/writer Willard Carroll, whose biggest claim to fame was being the executive producer and writer for the 'Brave Little Toaster' series, put together a stellar cast for a two hour movie about the many shades of romance and love. Even thought there are plenty of cheesy moments, the acting trumps all and makes the experience enjoyable, even if it's to watch our favorite actors light up the screen in their younger days.
We follow a bunch of character throughout the film in different segments as their names appear on screen. Without giving too much away for those who haven't seen the movie yet, we get a glimpse of Hugh (Dennis Quaid), who is not happy in his marriage. Gracie (Madeleine Stowe), who is subsequently having an affair with Roger (Anthony Edwards). Then there is Mildred (Ellen Burstyn), who is a wonderful mother who spends her time with her gay son Mark (Jay Mohr) on his death bed.
We also meet Paul (Sean Connery), who has been married to Hannah (Gena Rowlands) for 40 years, however, things take a turn for the worse when he comes clean about about events that took place years earlier. Then there is Meredith, who is involved with the theater and has had very bad luck with men, but is finally being pursued by good guy Trent (Jon Stewart) who is hopelessly in love with her, but she is struggling with her own emotions over getting involved with someone again and possibly getting hurt. And finally, there is Joan (Angelina Jolie), who is a young beautiful woman who spends her evenings dancing and drinking at the clubs where she meets a sweet and interesting guy named Keenan (Ryan Phillippe).
From here, we see the ups and downs of every relationship in different times and situations, all leading up to revealing how everyone is connected with each other. Some of these story arcs seems a bit forced and too corny to relate to. And some of the dialogue between Mark and his mom in the hospital seems a bit overly done. But the performances from these actors are all top notch, which helps us get through some of these worn out plot lines. Jolie, Phillippe, Burstyn, and Mohr stand out as the strongest of the ensemble, each giving an emotional and true performance. And it's still fun to watch how all of these characters are connected, and how Carroll executed that.
'Playing By Heart' isn't the best ensemble film you'll see, or even one of the better romantic movies out there, but it's still fun to watch after all of these years. The performances and chemistry really tie the film together nicely and it still holds up today despite its cliches. Plus it's always fun to see a pre 'Daily Show' Jon Stewart show off his acting skills, as well as Sean Connery watching Bill Maher on TV.
Things are about to get real for a minute. Echo Bridge and Miramax should be ashamed of themselves for releasing a Blu-ray in this day and age that looks this terrible. Yes, this has a 1080p HD transfer presented in 1.78:1 aspect ratio (the wrong ratio for this film by the way), but you wouldn't know it.
The image looks like it was beaten with a bag of hammers for a few days, then soaked in whiskey for a week, until finally getting roasted over a harsh fire until it has withered into a fuzzy, unsaturated mess. Yes, it's that bad. If I were Echo Bridge, I'd take my (very fuzzy) logo off of the film, as it looks like this so called Blu-ray was recorded and mastered without recent technology.
The detail throughout is not sharp whatsoever, actually appearing rather smeared. The colors are muted and pale, giving really no quality or existence to this picture. A lot of the time, the picture seems blurry, as if the camera was out of focus, but that's not the case. The flesh tones on everyone in the film are unnatural and seem to be a different shade all together. Throughout the entire flick, there are many instances of aliasing, banding with tons of dirt and scuffs on the picture itself. The black levels are fairly bright here as well. This is a poor excuse for a video presentation, quite possibly the worst I've ever seen on a Nlu-ray. The only reason this receives a half a star is that it shows a picture on the screen.
The audio track is a bit better than the video, but not by much. This release comes with a lossless DTS-HD 5.1 audio mix, but it certainly doesn't sound like it and it definitely doesn't live up to its potential. Everything sounds canned and vague here. The dialogue is clear, but not easy to understand, especially during the club scenes with blaring music and even with ambient noises that seem to outshine the actual dialogue. The dynamics are all over the place and are never consistent and the directionality is non-existent. I don't understand why professional studios would churn out such shoddy work like this, especially with a film with top notch talent.
There are no supplements.
'Playing By Heart,' as a movie, is decent enough, with tons of amazing performances by a stellar cast. I think people will generally enjoy the film, even if it's only once. But technically speaking, this is one of the worst Blu-rays ever to grace movie shelves, and there should be a recall and refund on this due to its awful transfers. Add to that not one extra or subtitle option. Even at this cheap price, I still can't recommend third-rate work like this for your hard earned money. Instead, check your cable to see if the film is playing in HD, or get the Region B import if you have the right setup, we should all write some angry letters and demand better work. This Blu-ray is one to avoid.