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'Random Hearts': Lubby-Dubby Melodrama

By Rita Kempley
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, October 8, 1999

  Movie Critic


'Random Hearts'
Kristin Scott Thomas and Harrison Ford are drawn to each other in "Random Hearts." (Columbia)

Director:
Sydney Pollack
Cast:
Harrison Ford;
Kristin Scott Thomas;
Richard Jenkins;
Charles Dutton;
Bonnie Hunt
Running Time:
2 hour, 11 minutes
R
Contains violence, language and sexual content
It is a question much pondered by moviegoers, and with the release of Sydney Pollack's "Random Hearts," we think a fair one: Who on God's green earth does Harrison Ford's hair? He looks like Chia Pet on Rogaine. And that's not a big plus in a leading man, especially one of a certain age.

That may sound petty, but "Random Hearts" is supposed to be a poignant romantic melodrama powered by the smoldering chemistry between Ford's sour D.C. cop and Kristin Scott Thomas's repressed Republican congresswoman. And while Chia Pets have their charms, extreme sex appeal is not among them. Of course, the same can be said of many Republicans.

To make matters even worse, the two meet only because their philandering spouses are killed in a plane crash on their way to a Florida rendezvous. Ford, in a humorless, pain-burying mode as Sgt. Dutch Van Den Broeck, becomes obsessed with uncovering the details of the affair. But Thomas's Kay Chandler, a patrician pragmatist running for reelection, clearly dislikes the gruff, pushy cop and sees no reason to poke about in the dirty linen.

Despite all this and the risk to her career, Kay joins Dutch on a quick trip to Miami, where they visit their mutual spouses' luxe love nest and favorite tango bar. The sexy dancing is too much for Kay, who hurries back to the airport. She refuses to sit next to Dutch on the flight back to Washington, but offers him a ride home. His acceptance leads to a brusque quickie in the unrestricted parking lot at Reagan National Airport.

"Well, that was fun," sneers Kay, who probably doesn't realize she is speaking for the rest of us, too. The scene is so abrupt and seemingly unmotivated that a preview audience guffawed when the two lunged at each other. Grief can be an aphrodisiac, it's true, but that notion has seldom been expressed quite so callously. Though the relationship mellows along with the characters, the affair is never believable to anybody, unless it's Pollack and writers Kurt Luedtke and Darryl Ponicsan.

Adapted from a 1984 novel by Warren Adler, the film is solemn, earnest and as laboriously paced as a fat Sicilian's funeral procession. Although sudden personal loss along with betrayal is filled with dramatic potential, the filmmakers haven't mined the subject of its many riches. Desperate to liven things up, they turn instead to an unrelated, distracting and violent subplot concerning one of Dutch's investigations. Then they top the whole thing off with an intrusive jazz score.

Scott Thomas can sizzle, as we've seen in "The English Patient," and nobody does stoic suffering the way Ford did it in "The Fugitive." The two stars make what they can of this morbid business, but try as they might, their random hearts won't beat as one.

   
© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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