Random Hearts (1999)
Main cast: Harrison Ford (Dutch Van Den Broeck) and Kristin Scott Thomas (Kay Chandler)
Director: Sydney Pollack


The book by Warren Adler, on which the movie is based on, is a slim (small-text) novel which my husband finished and enjoyed in a day. But this movie is a godawful 2 hours 1 minute long, and while there are two compelling characters in the limelight, everything seems to be covered by Artic ice sleet, thanks to the slow pace and a rather unnecessary sideplot involving a corrupt cop. Yes, there are many good things that keep me watching when I can be walking the dog, but I have to wade through what seemed like an ice-capped wasteland to get there. I'm still not sure if I should've just walked dear Colin the collie in the park instead.

Oh, and Harrison Ford sports a hairstyle that makes him look like the useful end of a toilet bowl scrubber.

Dutch is a sergeant involved in trying to nail a corrupt cop. Kay is a Democrat congresswoman intending to carve her niche in politics. They wouldn't have met if their respective spouses weren't having an affair and died in a plane crash together. That's bad timing for you. Even more gauche, the dead adulterers are traveling under the same last name. Calling themselves Mr and Mrs Cheatinspawn couldn't be more blatant.

Dutch becomes obsessed the moment he discovers his wife's deceit - he starts trying to piece every detail of her affair, from how she met the man to where they sneaked away together. As a result, he barges in Kay's carefully controlled world asking uncomfortable questions that could damage her PR image. But hey, she is also attracted to Dutch and what do you know, the feeling's mutual.

Only that the romance is subtle and Thomas' chilly acting presence almost drowned the whole thing into deep freeze. She looks uncannily like Gillian Anderson in her haircut and no-nonsense Dana Scully powersuits. Yet she is also a brilliant actress specializing in making every small gesture a nuance to be treasured. So chilly and glacial is her persona that when she thaws, the effect is mesmerizing. When she smiles, she really smiles, and the whole screen lights up. Thomas is clearly a master at subtlety, and paired opposite Ford whose sole expression seems to be scowly, the latter pales.

There are many little details to be savored. Dutch is a man who cannot get over the fact that the woman whom he is so happy with is cheating on him. Kay, the control freak, responds in a polar opposite manner: they're dead, get over it. When these two personalities collide, the effect could be explosive. Indeed, Dutch becomes more unstable in his emotions, causing his private turmoil to spill over onto his work. And she thaws, as he teaches her it is alright to feel and cry. There are also small moments between Kay and Dutch that, no matter how loud their affair screams REBOUND, they are believable as two people actually perfect for each other under their contrasting veneers. A small pillow talk has Kay asking, "Are you a Democrat?" He answers, "What if I am?" to which she replies, "We'll talk, and I'll give you books to read." When she calls him the F word, he says, "Don't use it if you don't like it." And the final scene is simply touching in the underplayed sexual tension.

Yes, RH is romantic, sometimes beautifully so, in so many tiny facets. But when the pieces are pieced together, the final product is less than memorable. Dutch and Kay meet after something like half an hour into the movie. Dutch's relentless pursuit of a corrupt Black cop that places him in hot soup with the No Racism folks, is simply irrelevant to the story and distracts more from than it enhances the story. Her sub-story is more interesting, with her dealing with a troubled daughter and a brilliant spin doctor who wants to make her a Brave Widow to wow the voters, but unfortunately I get more of Ford's tired cop chase. Perks of being a bigger star, I guess. But Ford has a horrid hairstyle (toilet scrubbers will never be the same again) that reduces his still burning screen presence into a laughable one. It is Thomas who flashes cold ice and fire, it is her who is the catharsis for the story's pivotal moment, and it is her who holds the story together. Maybe that's why this movie is awkwardly done: his story is boring and it shows, while her story is shoved to minimum screen time.

Rating: 66


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