Playing by Heart (1998)

R  |   |  Comedy, Drama, Romance  |  6 August 1999 (UK)
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Reviews: 195 user | 76 critic

Eleven articulate people work through affairs of the heart in L.A.



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1 win & 1 nomination. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Christian Mills ...


Eleven articulate people work through affairs of the heart in L.A. Paul produces Hannah's TV cooking show, and they must move beyond gentle barbs when she wants to know about an affair of his years ago. Mark is dying of AIDS, and his mother comes to his bedside: they must talk truthfully. Men have scalded Meredith so she rebuffs Trent's charm, but he persists. The trendy, prolix Joan tries to pull the solitary Keenan into her orbit: why is he reluctant? An adulterous couple meet at hotels for evening sex, but she is unwilling for the relationship to grow. Hugh tells tall tales, usually tragic, to women in bars. By the week's end, their parallel stories converge. Written by <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


If romance is a mystery, there's only one way to figure it out. See more »


Comedy | Drama | Romance

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for language | See all certifications »






Release Date:

6 August 1999 (UK)  »

Also Known As:

Dancing About Architecture  »

Filming Locations:

Box Office


$14,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

$26,669 (USA) (1 January 1999)


£122,758 (UK) (13 August 1999)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

| |


Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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Did You Know?


The house Jon Stewart's character lives in is the same house used for Tim Allens character in Galaxy Quest (1999) and Colin Firth's character in Where the Truth Lies (2005). It is known as ''Case Study House #22, aka Stahl House'' and is in the Hollywood Hills section of Los Angeles. See more »


Although Joan's cat is called Blanche and is consistently referred to as "she", the actual animal is a male (tomcat). See more »


Hannah: And you really didn't sleep with her?
Paul: No, of course not.
Hannah: And - you didn't want to sleep with her.
Paul: Oh, God, yes.
See more »

Crazy Credits

The opening scenes introducing the major characters list their character names with subtitles, but not the actors/actresses who are portraying them. See more »


References Psycho (1960) See more »


Exactly Like Me
Written by James Di Salvio (as James Di Salvio), Haig Vartzbedian, E.P. Bergen and Robert Eaglesham
Performed by Bran Van 3000
Courtesy of Capitol Records
Under license from EMI Music Special Markets
See more »

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User Reviews

Good, but not great
9 July 1999 | by (New Jersey, USA) – See all my reviews

Talking about love is like dancing about architecture," claims Angelina Jolie as Joan in Playing By Heart. An ensemble romance that should at least be notable for bringing together such a large and diverse cast, Playing By Heart is an enjoyable romantic tale of eleven people in Los Angeles whose lives are interconnected.

Sean Connery and Gena Rowlands play the oldest couple. Dealing with old age, Gena discovers that Sean considered having an affair during their 40 years of marriage. Learning to deal with this 25 years later, Rowlands and Connery are very good as a couple going through changes late in life. Connery is as dashing as ever, and him and Rowlands seem they have been together for 40 years. Their story is convincing and refreshing.

Keenan (Ryan Phillippe) and Joan (Angelina Jolie) are the youngest couple, two club kids looking for companionship in a complex world that Connery and Rowlands had never conceived of. Their story is as engaging and believable as that of Hannah and Paul. Jolie is the real star of this movie. No matter how composed she makes Joan out to be, we can always see her insecurities lurking just beneath the surface. Phillippe has little to do but bounce off of Jolie's tour-de-force, but he does it admirably and they make a sexy, believable young couple.

John Stewart and Gillian Anderson are also very good. She is a lonely theater director and he is a lonely architect. They have a natural unforced chemistry that you wouldn't expect from these two very different television personalities. Although their relationship in the script seems ill-conceived, their performances almost make up for it.

Madeline Stowe and Anthony Edwards are the most unappealing and ridiculous couple in the movie. As a couple cheating on their respective spouses, they have secret rendezvous in a hotel room almost every night from what it would seem. We never know the specifics of anything which is amusing at first, but becomes tired by the end of the film, as do the performances of Edwards and Stowe.

Ellen Burstyn and Jay Mohr play a mother and son. Mark is dying of AIDS and his mother rushes to his bedside. Mark and become very close before he dies. Although Burstyn and Mohr are good their story gets little screen time and thus doesn't feel as important as it should be.

Finally, Dennis Quaid is a man who spends his evenings in bars telling fantastical stories to anyone who will listen. Why does he do this? I can't give away the film, but the answer isn't truly satisfying, although Quaid gives a very good performance.

The stories all manage to come together in the end in a way that's clever and satisfying. While not the best movie, Playing By Heart has its heart in the right places and manages to have some keen insights into love and relationships.


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