Random Hearts (1999) Sydney Pollack

Production Budget: $64 million

Worldwide Gross: $74 million

“I try to go back…in my head. What’s the last thing you remember about you and your husband that you know is true. I gotta find out how far back I have to go to do that.” Dutch

The spouses of police detective Dutch (Harrison Ford) and Senator Kay (Kristin Scott Thomas) are killed in a plane crash. Dutch finds out that his wife and the senator’s husband were having an affair. Dutch goes to Kay in order to find out more about the affair, but they later grow close as a result of the investigation.

I normally don’t quote lines from movies but I think that line from the movie encapsulates what Random Hearts is really getting at. I have always felt that, of all the crimes that could be perpetrated on someone, confidence games are some of the most heinous. Sure assaults are horrible and thefts are a pain, but bruises heal and money can be earned back. It is something to have your trust in people shattered by someone playing on your confidence. And to tie this all back to the movie, it can also be hell on your psyche to have someone you supposedly trust above most others turn around and stab you in the back.

This is the main struggle that is going on with our protagonist Dutch. He is a detective who feels doubly embarrassed by his wife’s infidelity. Not only was he completely fooled, but Dutch feels worse because he feels he should have spotted it due to his line of work. Ford’s character ends up on some kind of Sam Spade pursuit of the truth almost expecting some villain at the end of the trail. It is all lashing out at some attempt to answer for some emotional scars. When did she start the affair? Why? When did she stop loving him? How much of it all was an act?

It was a rather interesting take on something that looked bland in the trailer. Random Hearts is more of a character study than a steamy romance between Ford and Thomas. It is also for that reason that I think the movie failed. I actually see the movie (with its script and narrative focus) as more of an independent film than a big budget release. Because you have two big names (which probably accounted for most of the budget), you now have to change things up to appeal to the larger audience.

One of the problems I had with this movie was the addition of a completely pointless subplot in which Dutch is trying to build a case against a rogue cop who kills people (played by Dennis Haysbert). And when I say completely pointless, I mean COMPLETELY FREAKING POINTLESS. Really, it feels like adding a subplot about a serial killer in the middle of The Notebook. I can only figure the producers thought most of the male demographic would be bored out of their skulls at this movie. So have Harrison Ford do some generic Harrison Ford action stuff and maybe that will pacify them. It has no basis on the overall story and the only payoff is a laughable clusterf*ck at the end of the movie. This movie did not need to be two hours and thirteen minutes long.

The other problem I had with this movie was actually with the whole romance aspect. I know, that is pretty much the selling point of this movie but it doesn’t work. First, for as much time as we get to know Dutch, Kay really gets shafted as far as character development. I love Kristen Scott Thomas as an actress, but she had nothing to work with here. Plus the whole romance just felt forced. These are two people that are comforting themselves in the wake of a tragedy. But don’t confuse “comforting” with hard groping in the front seat of a Lexus. The first time they hook up is so out of left field I threw my hands up in confusion.

Random Hearts is another in a long line of ‘mixed bags’ which I have covered on this blog. This movie certainly was much better than I ever expected it to be. Although I did come into this movie practically kicking and screaming. However I was surprised at the different turn the movie actually took and the somewhat interesting characters. That being said, the negative does outweigh the positive. The writing is all over the map, the acting can be hammy at times, and the tone is at times too melodramatic. While I am nowhere near hating this movie, I cannot recommend this movie to anyone either. Random Hearts was a nice try, but overall a failure.

 

 

 

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