Meredith, a theatre director (Gillian Anderson), and Trent, an architect (Jon Stewart), have a couple of misbegotten dates. Joan (Angelina Jolie) a struggling actress, doggedly chases young Keenan (Ryan Phillippe) from one nightclub to another. Meanwhile, the married Gracie (Madeleine Stowe) trysts with her equally married lover (Anthony Edwards) in a high-rise hotel. Cooking show creators Hannah (Gena Rowlands) and Paul (Sean Connery) find their 40-year marriage threatened by surprise revelations. And Hugh (Dennis Quaid) drifts aimlessly among bars, recounting sad stories and tall tales to confused strangers (Patricia Clarkson and Nastassja Kinski). Elsewhere, Mark (Jay Mohr) lies dying of AIDS in a hospital, while his long-suffering mother Mildred (Ellen Burstyn) keeps vigil.
 

4
Eleven articulate people work through affairs of the heart in L.A.

The original title of Playing By Heart was Dancing About Architecture... which comes from the opening lines in the film... talking about love is like dancing about architecture... but writer/director Willard Carroll attempts a tango with this film... and all credit to him... way away from contemporary cynicism he presents us with a number of riffs about love... the love of a mother - Ellen Burstyn - for her son - Jay Mohr - dying of AIDS... the fear of being burnt by love as successful theatre director Gillian Anderson avoids the attentions of architect Jon Stewart... the endurance of love as husband and wife - Sean Connery and Gena Rowlands - confront a past infidelity as they approach their fortieth anniversary... and the search for love amongst young singles - Angelina Jolie is relentless in her pursuit of loner Ryan Phillippe...This is such an unexpectedly romantic and optimistically romantic film it almost seems old-fashioned... it`s nicely written, although not realistically written... it sits somewhere between film and theatre... and it`s beautifully performed by a very solid cast with Madeleine Stowe and Dennis Quaid rounding out these perspectives of the difficulties of attaining and accepting love... Ellen Burstyn is wonderful as always and Angelina Jolie has a beguiling energy that`s very attractive. I don`t know that Playing By Heart has any earth-shattering news for us but maybe it`s a reminder of the importance of love in our lives and how elusive and yet nourishing it can be...David`s Comments: A strong cast and some witty dialogue (mostly delivered by Sean Connery and Angelina Jolie) distinguish an otherwise rather contrived film about looking for love. Apart from the actors mentioned, the widescreen photography by Vilmos Szigmond is the film`s greatest asset.