Playing by Heart (1998) - Rotten Tomatoes

Playing by Heart1998

Playing by Heart (1998)



Critic Consensus: It's overly talky, but Playing By Heart benefits from witty insights into modern relationships and strong performances from an esteemed cast.

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Movie Info

This film weaves together interlocking stories about finding love in Los Angeles. The film's theme is spoken by young club-hopper Joan. Taken by the mysterious Keenan, she tells him that "talking about love" is like "dancing about architecture," meaning speech is not the medium to express the details of love.

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Matt Malloy
as Desk Clerk
Tim Halligan
as Director, Cook Show
Jeremy Sisto
as Malcolm
David Ferguson
as Drag Queen
Joel McCrary
as Bartender, Drag Bar
Worthie Meacham
as 2nd Drag Queen Performer
Hal Landon Jr.
as Actor `Commissioner'
Marc Allen Lewis
as Actor `Harpagon'
Ron Boussom
as Actor `Jacques'
Daniel Chodos
as Actor `Anselme'
Mark Lewis
as Waiter
Jim Abele
as Doctor
Marcus Printop
as Trumpet Player
Larry Antonio
as Bass Player
Robert English
as Saxophonist
Ryo Okumuto
as Pianist
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News & Interviews for Playing by Heart

Critic Reviews for Playing by Heart

All Critics (53) | Top Critics (16)

Carroll's milieu is resolutely middle class and the crises encountered all too predictable.

June 18, 2012 | Full Review…
Top Critic

Carroll's characters spend so much time talking, albeit intelligently, that the connections they make seem peculiarly synthetic.

March 26, 2009

This charming romantic comedy with a Los Angeles setting cuts between seemingly unconnected miniplots the way some Robert Altman movies do.

June 3, 2006 | Full Review…

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.

June 3, 2006 | Full Review…
Top Critic

If Playing by Heart is the kind of film that used to be known as a "woman's picture," it certainly provides more emotional nourishment than most other mainstream movies generate these days.

February 14, 2001 | Full Review…

The movie is consistently well-acted and features a gallery of characters so affable that it's difficult to actively dislike any of them, or, for that matter, the film as a whole.

January 1, 2000 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Playing by Heart

A pretty impressive late-90s cast assembles to depict a couple of aspects of love in Los Angeles. That's mildly entertaining and offers a decent surprise here or there, especially how all those characters are connected is as simple as puzzling in the end. Why there had to be two cases of "once bitten, twice shy" instead of maybe going a different direction with one of the two characters probably remains the creators' secret. Then-newcomer Angelina Jolie already acted with the confidence of a coming super star, though.

Jens S.
Jens S.

Super Reviewer

A passable yet rather predictable romantic drama that, despite a top-notch cast, seems more interested in its element of surprise at the end, reducing all the complexity of its situations and themes to a happy ending where everything works out and is wrapped up in easy fashion.

Carlos Magalhães
Carlos Magalhães

Super Reviewer


I'm a bit confused as to why "Playing By Heart" has faded into oblivion since it debuted in 1998. First off, the cast is impeccable. "Playing By Heart" should be remembered for getting some of contemporary cinema's finest actors on screen together. Gillian Anderson, Angelina Jolie, Madeleine Stowe, Ellen Burstyn, Sean Connery, Anthony Edwards, Dennis Quaid, Gena Rowlands, Ryan Phillippe, Jay Mohr and Jon Stewart (yes, THAT Jon Stewart, who is shockingly great here) are all terrific. There is not a single weak spot in the ensemble. What's funny is that the actors are all so good that it almost seems like they are daring each other to top the next. Jolie, in an early performance, steals the whole picture, though. If this was not a showcase for what was to come, I don't know what is. The story is something we have seen before, mostly from the likes of Robert Altman, but none of it is ever trite or offensive. It's all played out with such grace and nuance that even it's somewhat conventional ending is welcomed. If you like movies about a group of interconnected people working through their lives and dealing with love and making connections (admittedly my favorite genre), then "Playing By Heart" is for you. I also recommend it on the merits of that incredible cast and the endlessly enticing dialogue. It all makes for a magical, resonant and sweet picture about the many sides of love.

Steven Carrier
Steven Carrier

Super Reviewer

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