Blast from the past

Let’s celebrate Angelina Jolie’s birthday with one of her best and underestimated movies


Angelina Jolie is a lot of things. Actress, mother, daughter, celebrity, activist, Academy Award winner, director, philanthropist and today a birthday girl. The acclaimed Hollywood actress today celebrates her 42 second birthday, and in that honor, I think it’s appropriate to celebrate with it with one of her best and one of her most underestimated movies.

Playing by Heart. The Willard Carroll written/directed movie came out in theaters pre her Oscar win, pre global stardom and A-list status, pre adoption, pre Brangelina and pre switching to directorial job. No, Playing by Heart was distributed by Miramax films, and while it was a moderate success with the film critics almost 20 years ago, it bombed heavily at the box office (Playing by Heart earned $3,970,078 over 14 million dollars budget).

But besides Angelina being in it, what makes it so great? Well let’s start from her co-stars. Sean Connery and Gena Rowlands played Jolie’s parents while Gillian Anderson and Madeleine Stowe were her older sisters.

Academy award winner Ellen Burstyn is also in the movie, while Anthony Edwards (at the height of his ER stardom) Ryan Phillippe, Jay Mohr completed the rest of the cast. Oh I simply cannot forget the presence of the very young and talented Jon Stewart as Gilian Anderson’s love interest.

Besides having a stellar cast (and wonderful performances from each and every one of them), the two most fascinating things about the movie were the dialogues and the themes depicted in the movie itself.

I mean the script consisted of lines like…

You know I’m not just asking you to dinner as a pre-emptive strike against litigation.


Blanche can look at you with a gaze of unflappable superiority that springs from total detachment and disinterest… not unlike how you’re looking at me know.

The movie was focused more on character development than the story, but if you think about it, each of those characters were not only connected in this complicated web, each of them sent either a message or touched a common fear that we all have. AIDS and homosexuality were part of the movie themes, so was infidelity, so was fear of abandonment, addiction, human mortality with a touch of grace and humor of course.

Fun fact about the movie is that this was the final film to receive the “Two Thumbs Down” from film critics Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel.

As the movie circled from one story to another, I found myself waiting for Angelina Jolie to come ’round again. With her pouty lips and punk chic look, she’s an original; I like the way she’s talking to her sister on the phone and when Keenan turns up unexpectedly, she says, “Let me take care of this call,” and takes care of it by hanging up. Their relationship is the one that develops the most during the film; it’s the one we care about, said Ebert in his written review.

So, in honor of Angelina’s 42 birthday I think it’s time to check out Playing by Heart once again.


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