Random Hearts
Directed by Sydney Pollack
Written by Kurt Luedtke

Starring Harrison Ford, Kristin Scott Thomas


Random Hearts

Some things are just too appalling for rational analysis. One would be the unexpected death of your spouse. Another would be learning that your dead spouse had been cheating on you. But the worst is having to sit through an interminable two hours watching Harrison Ford and Kristin Scott Thomas beat their way through the most turgid script this side of "The Horse Whisperer."

I've just given you the setup for "Random Hearts," an easy candidate for this month's overblow medallion, which is given periodically to films that are at least fifty percent longer than they should be. To begin with, we in the audience know in five minutes that Ford's wife and Scott Thomas's husband were cheatin' hearts, as opposed, you understand, to random hearts, which is a title I'll not bother trying to understand. Unfortunately what we know in five minutes takes them a bit more than an hour to figure out, oddly since he is a skilled detective sergeant in the Internal Affairs division of the Washington, D.C. police, and she is a U.S.Congresswoman. Never, you might say, have two people taken so long to figure out so little.

We are told that she has taken her dead father's New Hampshire Congressional seat and must now run for re-election to keep it. Scandal like this is not going to be helpful. We also learn that he is skirting the edge of acceptable cop behavior by trying to pin first a bribery and then a murder conviction on another cop. It's a thin premise, but better movies have been made out of less. In this case, though, there are some problems.

The film is not helped by a) the dialogue, which rumbles through like a slow freight bearing lines like "I don't know who I am anymore;" and b) Ford's increasingly painful habit of holding excruciatingly long pauses before speaking a line. It is evidently his way of indicating emotion, as he shows us no other way. He is the greatest stone face since Gary Cooper. Ford seems to have one gear: dogged determination. It's the last thing this film needs.

The director is Sydney Pollack, who over a career of thirty-five years has made some films that come close to placement in the pantheon: "They Shoot Horses, Don't They?" "Jeremiah Johnson," "Three Days of the Condor," and "Tootsie" come to mind. And one noteworthy skill that all of them show is good timing. Pollack used to know how and when to cut, how to pace his scenes, how to ratchet up the tension and the power of his films. Here he seems to have fallen into what you might call a slough of despond. The pacing is so slack, the shots so boring, that it takes a kind of gritted-teeth determination just to sit through the film. Add in that there's next to no chemistry between the two stars, who seem to stare into space past each other, and you have a miasmic convergence of grand proportions.

I might point out that from the Democratic perspective the prospect of Scott Thomas losing her seat is not quite a tragedy, as she is a Republican. I'm sure they're thinking, anything to cut down on the majority. From my perspective, I might vote for her just to get this film over with.    

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