Weekly Wire
Memphis Flyer Heart Broken

'Random Hearts' may be too random.

By Susan Ellis

OCTOBER 18, 1999:  It’s a miracle, this Random Hearts. For centuries, scientists have tried to manipulate time. Who knew that it would take a movie to achieve time warp? Minutes stretch forward and then back again and sometimes they completely stand still.

This is not to say, however, that Random Hearts is so engrossing that it sucks you in and then spits you out after two-and-a-half hours. Not at all. Instead, it makes you start silently chanting, end, dammit, end.

Random Hearts stars Harrison Ford as Dutch Van Der Broeck, a Washington, D.C., internal affairs officer, and Kristen Scott Thomas as Kay Chandler, a congresswoman who is running for reelection. Dutch is a scruffy, outdoorsy guy with a streak of sarcasm and impatience, while Kay is correct with a capital C and a little uptight. They have nothing in common, and their paths were never meant to cross. It’s a plane crash that brings them together.

A plane heading for Miami crashes, with both Dutch’s wife and Kay’s husband onboard. And not only were they onboard, but they were also together. Dutch and Kay know almost immediately that their respective spouses were having an affair, but their reactions are different. Dutch, whose livelihood depends on him noticing the details, is flummoxed that his wife could be cheating while he didn’t have a clue. Kay, on the other hand, just wants to get past it, bury the news with her husband so that her 15-year-old daughter doesn’t find out, nor does her constituency.

The investigator in Dutch won’t let it go, however. He dogs Kay, asking her questions that has the reserved politician screaming expletives. He’s got to find that tell-tale sign, the thing that explains why; Kay can’t bear to know the answer.

The two butt heads in Miami, where Dutch has gone to lay eyes on the place where the adulterous pair met, and where Kay has followed to demand that he leave it alone. Back in D.C. in the airport parking lot, the two tussle, locking lips with such force as to suffocate the other. Suddenly, they are the only people that the other has to go to for comfort and understanding.

Of course, Kay and Dutch have to stay in their own corners, denying and digging, until the other can venture out, give up his or her stance just enough to meet halfway.

And so it goes. And goes. And it even includes a subplot involving one of Dutch’s investigations.

Though the dialogue is bad (bad enough for the actors’ million-dollar paychecks to be worth it), I personally blame director Sydney Pollack for this rather draggy film. While the film is meticulous in its details to the point of monotony, it feels as if it were rushed for release. The acting isn’t up to snuff, particularly in the case of Thomas, whose performance is at times somewhat stage-y. Pollack, who may never be known as a brilliant director, isn’t an amateur in any case. He won an Academy Award for Out of Africa, helmed the comedy favorite Tootsie, and scrubbed away all of the cellulite from John Grisham’s novel The Firm to make the movie more than presentable and truly better than the book. Part of the trouble seems to be that he just has to act in this film as a sharky media advisor for Kay’s re-election campaign. Sure, he gets in a few jabs at the political system (perhaps he’s for campaign-finance reform), but the role is totally throwaway and should have been left on the cutting room floor. It’s almost as if Pollack is out to prove something, that he’s taken some sort of cinematic Viagra, showing that he has staying power. But, in the end, he’s just proved that he can make a really dull movie.

On the bright side, Thomas looks fabulous. She sports a great-looking bob, with wheat-colored streaks, and her wardrobe, designed by Ann Roth (who won an Oscar for her designs for The English Patient) — stark black suits, thin elegant sweaters, and serious knit dresses — is enviable.

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