Saturday, March 25, 2006

Playing By Heart/Bel Canto

I watched a movie with a constellation of stars yesterday called "Playing By Heart." It was about a family with three daughters, all of whom were having various dramas with their love lives. Oddly enough, they don't tell you that all these people are related until the end of the film. It's just a series of vignettes, with the couples arguing or fighting or meeting or dating or having an affair. Angelina Jolie, whom the camera adores, falls for a delicious and too-young-for-her Ryan Fillipe, and cynical, witty John Stewart pays court to the equally luminous Gillian Anderson. Madeline Stowe, who is married to Dennis Quaid and is having an affair with Anthony Edwards (proving once again that to women, looks aren't always a big factor in whom they want to bed) is the only one who looks tired, haggard and older than she should. Gena Rowlands and Sean Connery, who will remain sexy and vital until the day he takes his final dirt nap, are the matriarch and patriarch of the family, and Sean reveals his love of another woman to Gena, 25 years after the fact. Seans character has an inoperable brain tumor, so he feels the need to lance the wound, drain it and clear the air. The only unbelievable character is Anthony Edwards as a minister and stud-muffin. Come on, the guy has a receeding hairline and a face longer than a horses! Unless he's packing something dangerous in his shorts, I just can't see why Stowe would consistently risk her marriage and his for a regular roll in the hay. I found most of the relationships to be interesting and believable, though, and heartbreaking in the sense of the last moments of Ellen Bustyns relationship with her AIDS afflicted son. The ending, weaving all the characters lives together, was touching and romantic. I was left longing for more time with this lively family. Bel Canto, by Anne Patchett, is a book I was reading for the Cover to Cover book group a the library. I was not looking forward to it, as I'd read Patchetts dreadful "Magicians Assistant" and found the ending to be a relief, though it was precipitous. Bel Canto was obviously Patchetts magnum opus, and it shows in her desire to describe every tiny molecule of her characters faces, lives, body odor. All that description became boring, tedious and totally without merit. SPOILER ALERT! Then she kills off even the children, in the end. Ruthlessly and without so much as a second thought, they are gone. Ugh. Horrible. The ending marriage between two of the main characters comes off as a sop to the reader, who must still be reeling from the deaths of all the revolutionaries, again, most of them children. Unbelievable. I can't imagine wanting to read anything else Patchett writes, as I feel ripped off by the hasty, 'goody-marries-goody' ending and the careless murder of the other characters, described in such miniscule detail.

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