Friday, December 27, 2013

Movie Review - 'Random Hearts' (1999)

The other night, on one of those pay channels… a movie about to commence... checked
the guide to see it was 'Random Hearts' (1999) starring Harrison Ford and Kristin Scott
Thomas. I hadn't seen it since it was released... it seemed a lifetime ago... so long
in fact I had no more recollection of the subject, plot or finale. I made myself
comfortable and proceeded to be enveloped by and reminded why Sydney Pollack was a quiet
master of cinema romance. He was brilliant at taking the love particles down the alleys
of timelessness, 'They Shoot Horses, Don't They?' (1969)... suspense, 'Three Days of
the Condor' (1975), 'Absence of Malice' (1981) and 'The Firm' (1993)... absurdity,
'The Electric Horseman' (1979) & 'Tootsie' (1982)... and the epics 'The Way We Were'(1973)
& 'Out of Africa' (1985). He's had his misfires… I'm sure, but irrelevant to my
review... all in all, an impressive track record.
'Random Hearts' is based on a 1984 novel of the same name by American author Warren
Adler, who wrote the novel after being moved by the 1982 Air Florida Flight 90 disaster.
Our hero, Dutch Van Den Broeck (Harrison Ford - loving the diamond stud earring) is
an appealingly earnest police sergeant who works in internal affairs for the Washington
D.C. police. Our heroine, Kay Chandler (Kristin Scott Thomas, dressed and styled à la
Armani, is so incredibly beautiful) is a brisk, efficient New England, Republican
congresswoman who isn't taken seriously even by those working for her. In part, due to
the fact that she was grandfathered in the seat when her dad, a much-respected, long
standing congressman suddenly passed away. Their two lives and natures are as opposite
as day and night, but what they have in common is a horribly brutal plane crash in which
each loses a spouse. Problem is… neither knows why their partners were flying to Miami—or
if there might be any reason why they were seated next to one another. For a romantic
drama, 'Random Hearts' sure doesn't begin the way you would expect. The film eases us
into the worlds of its two principal characters a Washington D.C. internal affairs cop
and a New Hampshire Congresswoman, with a campaign and a teenage daughter to manage.
Their lives run parallel for nearly an hour of screen time, with Dutch investigating
a pair of crooked cops and Kay preparing for a tough re-election campaign. Drifting
through the background is the event that will bring them together: an airline crash that
claims the lives of Dutch's wife Peyton (Susanna Thompson) and Kay's husband Cullen
(Peter Coyote). With a languid silkiness, director Sydney Pollack lets the characters
develop independently before Dutch's suspicion that Peyton and Cullen were having an
affair sets Dutch and Kay on a collision course.
The pacing may be slow, but the set-up is engrossing and effective. The hint of
mystery behind the deaths sets all the gears of tangled intrigue into motion... the
machinery sharpened with the director's felicity with enthralling narratives. Pollack
and screenwriter Kurt Luedtke, a frequent collaborator, shuttle the charming stars
between a host of locations—the power curves of Washington D.C., the shimmering pastels
of Miami, the golden-brown autumn glow of New England. Then, something surprising
After a day together in Miami exploring the possible scene of their spouses' infidelity,
Dutch and Kay return home exchanging portentous glances throughout their plane trip.
Finally, in Kay's car at the airport, they surrender to their wanton desires... Harrison
and Kristin generate chemistry when they abruptly hurl themselves at one another. Doomed
liaisons between wounded, grieving souls in dramatic cinema -- case in point: 'Last
Tango in Paris' (1972)-- such films generally focus on the essential emptiness at the
center of the relationship. 'Random Hearts' delves into that kind of psychological pain...
keeps suggesting the potential for genuine affection between Dutch and Kay... something
besides the mutual despair and betrayal that connected them in the first place. As a
result, it feels like a 1940's weeper in the body of a European art film. Two things
I enjoy the most.

* From Where I Sit
December 26, 2013

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

'Bad Boys'

'The baddest of the 'Bad Boys', the guy who goes all the way back to before the beginning,
has been called many things: the Prince of Darkness, the Tempter, the Bringer of Light. As
portrayed in John Milton's 'Paradise Lost', he was the most beautiful of the Angels before he
rebelled...also the most arrogant. "Better to reign in Hell," he taunts, "than serve in Heaven."
Charisma incarnate, he gets all the good lines and almost all the girls. This fallen Angel,
a primal archetype, is undying: whenever men misbehave we think of him. Robert Lovelace
in 'Clarissa', the Vicomte de Valmont in 'Les Liaisons Dangereuses', 'Don Juan' in print and
in opera, the Willoughbys and Wickhams, wily and wicked, of Jane Austen.
More recently, in real life, fabled Hollywood lady killers like Jack Nicholson and Warren
Beatty come to mind, along with hot tempers Steve McQueen and Sean Connery, and men
for whom 'moderation' is moot-though this is often a consequence of youth, as with Johnny
Depp, Sean Penn, and Colin Farrell. Let's just say there would be very little art without our
attractive little Devils, and centuries of stories would be boring.
The world has always loved its 'Bad Boys', but it wasn't until the movies that we got to
revel in them. Suddenly, in the 1930s, the libertine, gangster, outlaw, scofflaw, public
enemy, serial seducer, bank robber, and sexy barn burner had faces. And what faces!
James Cagney and Humphrey Bogart as bootleggers, the young Clark Gable as a meanie
in black leather, Paul Muni and George Raft as mobsters. Darkness, temptation, light the
black-and-white film of early Hollywood caught it all in deep shadows and grey velvet,
combinations of smoke and pearl. And then there was that gleam, which you cannot get
in Technicolor, those dangerous gleaming eyes with lashes you can count.
Odd how we so often root for the 'Bad Boy', wanting him to succeed, or at least to get
away. Why? Because he's the one with the energy. And though William Shakespeare
wrote that "ripeness is all"… energy is everything. It is light and therefore illumination;
it is movement and therefore change; it tests the boundaries of freedom.' ~ ©Finnegan Bond ± Taipan