Playing by Heart Blu-ray features mediocre video and audio in this mediocre Blu-ray release
A diverse group of people cross paths while trying to find love in Los Angeles.
For more about Playing by Heart and the Playing by Heart Blu-ray release, see Playing by Heart Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on April 4, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 2.5 out of 5.
Talking about love is like dancing about architecture.
Before Pretty Woman director Garry Marshall took it upon himself to corner
market in the multistory, multi-character, multifaceted, interconnected-by-the-end Romantic Drama/Romantic Comedy hybrid genre with his
holiday-themed films Valentine's Day and New Year's Eve, there was Playing by Heart, a
story of a whole lot of people with a whole lot of challenges in their in-love, out-of-love, and would-be romantic relationships that somehow, some
way, tie together
fairly neatly by the end as their lives are further fleshed out and the secrets of how they connect to one another become apparent. It's certainly not
busy as Marshall's films -- Valentine's Day in particular -- and it captures much the same genuine heart, honesty, and breeziness of New
Eve. Playing by Heart fills the imagination with several well-rounded tales of mostly interesting couples experiencing various
stages of life and love. It's the tales of all the good and the bad that grows out of coming together, drifting apart, and the sacrifices necessary for
and the importance of honesty and conviction in finding, winning, and remaining with that perfect soulmate.
I'm in a club called Tech-Noir! I think Dennis Quaid is following me!
Playing by Heart follows the stories of several individuals as they sort out their love lives at various stages and with a myriad of personal
and interpersonal issues at stake. Keenan (Ryan Phillippe) and Joan (Angelina Jolie) meet at a trendy nightclub after he overhears her angrily
breaking up with her boyfriend over the phone. He's turned off by her attitude, at first, but the two slowly grow closer together. Paul (Sean
Connery) and Hannah (Gena Rowlands) have been married many years and are about to renew their vows but the rekindling of the past could either
them closer together or push them further apart. Gracie (Madeleine Stowe) and Roger (Anthony Edwards) are carrying on an illicit affair; he wants
more, she's happy indulging only in the physical end relationship. Hugh (Dennis Quaid) is a bar hopper who lies about his life to elicit an emotional
response from the
women he meets. Meredith (Gillian Anderson) takes a chance on dating a guy she knows little about (Jon Stewart), resulting in several awkward
moments on the way to feeling one another out. Lastly, Mark (Jay Mohr) is an AIDS patient living out his final days in the hospital with his mother
(Ellen Burstyn) at his
It might be easy to become blinded by the star power on display in the film -- Playing by Heart boasts one of the premiere cast lists
audiences are ever
likely to come across -- but Writer/Director Willard Carroll's (Marigold) picture manages to blend them all into the story rather seamlessly,
not a very easy accomplishment and a testament to
the quality of the
scriptwriting and the meat of the story both. While it's not a perfect film -- some of the relationships and reveals aren't quite as dramatically sexy,
surprising, or emotionally satisfying as others -- there's a sweetness to it, a legitimate tenderness in the way the characters are developed, the way
their vulnerabilities are gradually laid out in the open as their stories progress, the way their strengths and weaknesses make complete people of
nearly all of them. The movie builds its characters
from all angles, and it's that sense of wholeness that moves it beyond genre artificiality and into something more palatable as both cinema
entertainment and a tale that elicits a rather deep emotional response. More
importantly, though, is that the film unequivocally succeeds, with most of the stories, in building deeply satisfying arcs and meshing them into a
single artistic expression rather than leaving them feeling forced in the way they meet in the end. This is a movie that may not be relatable to all
viewers but it is one that certainly captivates with its
combination if simplistic superficial story lines defined by deeper emotions and surprises.
Even though the story overshadows the cast, there's no denying the strengths each player brings to the film. Jay Mohr is outstanding in what looks
from the outside like a rather simple role -- lay in bed and wear a little makeup -- but he finds a shockingly complete character depth on his death
bed, not just looking the part but feeling it and conveying that feeling to his audience to the point that there shouldn't be a dry eye in the audience
for his final scenes. Ellen Burstyn is wonderful as his mother, a woman finding it
difficult to understand her son while dealing with the pending loss of his life. It's a shame their story doesn't earn more screen time; it's the film's
best but limited to mere minutes in the two-hour experience (the same of which may be said of the best story in the aforementioned New Year's
Eve, that of the Michelle Pfeiffer-Zac Efron "bucket list" tour). Sean Connery and Gena Rowlands make for a believable, struggling older couple
on the verge of renewing their vows but finding it
difficult to come to terms with the realities of their long and checkered pasts together. Gillian Anderson and Jon Stewart create a beautifully evolving
relationship, and on the opposite end is the film's least impressive tale, that of the cheating spouses and the little dramatic depth that story provides.
On the flip side, the finest of the budding romantic relationships in the film is that between Angelina Jolie and Ryan Phillippe. It's shaped by
incredibly deep, pure emotions, and the actors manage to vividly bring their inner feelings to the surface in an infinitely believable and
likable relationship that's the most dramatically and emotionally satisfying both by film's end.
Playing by Heart's oddly-framed high definition transfer is no work of Blu-ray art. From the outset, the image takes on a muddled, bland, dim,
washed out appearance. Darker shots look as though they're being smothered by a haze, and brighter ones don't fare significantly better. The image is
terribly flat and unnaturally smooth; grain is practically nonexistent, and details lack any sort of refined texture, showing only basic shapes and the sort
of clarity and vibrancy normally associated with standard definition material. Colors fare little, if any, better. They're uninspired to say the least, never
brilliant and quite drab in most instances. Black levels take on a pale and washed out appearance, and flesh tones, too, never find a positive, natural
balance. The image shows some light banding in a few places, but additional unwanted anomalies aren't included in any real excess. This one's
watchable, but it's pretty far removed from the best Echo Bridge has to offer.
Playing by Heart earns a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 lossless soundtrack, but it lacks that sense of rich fullness and natural clarity of similarly
encoded and superior presentations. Overall, the track proves quite weak, yielding muddled musical notes and a distinctive lack of energy. It does offer
a fair amount of front end spacing with a noticeable surround element to the opening music, though this certainly isn't a track one would use to
showcase precise musical reproduction. Granted, some of the dance club background music should come across as somewhat cluttered and
sloppy to help recreate the effect, but even through score there's a disappointing lack of natural presence. The track does produce a few scattered
moments of fair surround immersion; falling rain isn't purely spaced but the scattered entire-stage effect proves satisfactory. Most of the track takes the
shape of dialogue, which fortunately comes through clearly enough and remains the property of the center channel for the duration. This is a somewhat
sloppy track, but it's good enough to get listeners through the film with the basic elements coming through adequately enough.
Playing by Heart is a fine Drama/Romance/Romantic Comedy hybrid that offers a hodgepodge of likable, relatable, lovable, and even despicable
characters. But the end result is a movie that's beautifully balanced and not in the least bit structurally overwhelming. Most of the stories are
enthralling, one is quite bland, but all of them are with some dramatic merit as they tie in with the final act but also stand on their own excellence.
end reveals, revelations, and
connections largely satisfy. The cast is uniformly excellent, and only the bland story receives uninspired performances. Echo Bridge's Blu-ray release of
Playing by Heart features disappointing video, merely adequate audio, and no supplements. Nevertheless, it comes recommended on the
strength of the film and the selling price point.
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