Sony // 1999 // 133 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Harold Gervais (Retired) // February 28th, 2000
What's the last thing you remember about your husband that you know was true?
From the novel of the same name by Warren Adler comes Sydney Pollack's film Random Hearts.
The film is about a Washington D.C. Internal Affairs officer named Dutch Van Den Broeck (Harrison Ford) and Republican Congresswoman Kay Chandler (Kristen Thomas). These are two somber, reserved people who find out that their spouses were having an affair with each other. Van Broeck and Chandler discover this in a rather abrupt and painfully final way, when the two spouses are killed in the crash of a plane neither was supposed to be on.
Random Hearts is very frustrating because there is such a wealth of good material -- the main problem being the filmmakers don't know what parts to use and focus on.
From the film's opening sequence where Ford and Thomas move through their day, secure that all is right in their world to the harrowing moments when the rug is pulled out from underneath them. The movie moves to Ford's search for the truth, to why his wife was on the flight and whom she was with. His desire to know how long the affair had been going on, to Thomas' refusal to admit anything was wrong in her life.
So many sub-plots in the mix. From Ford's investigation of a corrupt cop to Thomas' re-election bid against a rich "loon" in New Hampshire. Pollack and screenwriter Kurt Luetke are so busy throwing balls in the air that they don't really spend enough time on the material that really sings. Namely, the relationship that develops between the Van Den Broeck and Chandler characters. In "Butch" Van Den Broeck, Ford shows why he is among the best in the business at underplaying and building to a slow boil. When he realizes that his wife was not taking the flight for business reasons he asks "Are you saying she...lied to me?" You can feel his first, cold pang of betrayal. Thomas is also quite effective as the northeastern congresswoman even though her English dialect does pop through at certain points in the film.
Both characters are such private people that they hide behind their façades of putting everything behind them till it all breaks loose in a moment of unexpected and very convincing passion. This moment opens up the most interesting can of worms Random Hearts has to offer. The effects of betrayal and loss. For Ford's character it is like he is stuck in a room, unable to move, unwilling to take the steps to get out. For Thomas, it is the exact opposite. She cannot leave the room quick enough -- hurling open the door and giving into feelings she probably did not know she had before the crash. If all this seems like a rambling review -- well it is. But then, so is the film. There were so many moments in Random Hearts that just felt so "right" only to have those moments washed away by the many sub-plots that run through the movie. So many good things existing side by side to one another but nothing adding up for a satisfying whole. The film does not really come to any kind of conclusion. It just kind of...ends.
As for the disc itself, well it's from Columbia, so you know it is going to be anamorphic and look great. And boy does it ever. Colors pop off of the screen. Flesh tones are true and lifelike and black are solid with zero bleed. The disc has both a 2-channel Dolby Surround and 5.0 Dolby Digital soundtracks. This is not exactly the disc you would want to show off your sound system with. There is some limited bass at the beginning of the film during the search and rescue scenes but otherwise no bells and whistles. All the dialogue comes through clear and Dave Grusin's moody score is used to very good effect.
While not a full blown "special edition" Random Hearts does have it's share of extras. First and foremost is a scene specific commentary from director Sydney Pollack. While informative, I found it rather dry and difficult to stay with for the entire running length of the film.
Also included is a trio of deleted scenes that also have commentary. For a film that is already way too long at 133 minutes, I could see why these scenes were cut. Special features are rounded out by the HBO: First Look -- The Making of Random Hearts, an isolated music track, trailers and talent files. Not too bad for a movie that did not exactly light up the box office.
What could have been is always the most bitter of disappoints. The film wastes so much time with meaningless sub-plots that the real meat of the film is given the short end of the stick. Too bad.
Columbia is acquitted once again for their commitment to both the format and the consumer but director Sydney Pollack is asked to show greater focus next time and let the characters carry the film. That's it. Case dismissed!
Review content copyright © 2000 Harold Gervais; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.0 Surround (English)
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround (English)
Running Time: 133 Minutes
Release Year: 1999
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Sydney Pollack's Commentary
* HBO: First Look -- the Making of Random Hearts
* Deleted Scenes
* Isolated Music Score
* Theatrical Trailers
* Talent Files
* Official Site