Rated R - Running Time: 2:13 - Released 10/8/99

Random Hearts is one of those movies that is well-produced but suffers from a fundamental problem: an unbelievable premise. Novelist Warren Adler's idea that two people would unite romantically after their spouses are killed together in a plane crash while having an affair, seems a tad unlikely — I don't care how dashing Harrison Ford is, or how good Kristin Scott Thomas looks in jeans. Still, an excellent film is an excellent film. The eloquent screen adaptation by Darryl Ponicsan and Kurt Luedtke, and the sensitive direction of Sydney Pollack (Out of Africa, The Firm), actually bring Adler's improbable idea to life in a way that is touching and memorable, and perhaps almost even believable. Moreover, the chemistry between Ford and Thomas is seriously effective. Even though he's getting to be as much of a hunky stereotype as Costner or Redford (who was Thomas's co-star in The Horse Whisperer), there's no denying the spark between these two.

A plane bound for Miami from D.C. crashes after takeoff, killing everyone on board. Among the casualties were Peyton Van Den Broeck (Susanna Thompson) and Cullen Chandler (Peter Coyote), two lovers on their way to a romantic weekend together at the beach. The trouble is, they were both married to other people. Peyton's husband is D.C. police Sergeant Dutch Van Den Broeck (Ford), an internal affairs cop working on a case to bust a couple of his crooked colleagues. And Cullen's wife is New Hampshire Congresswoman Kay Chandler (Thomas), who is currently up for re-election and working closely with her publicity man, Carl Broman (director Pollack). When Dutch discovers that his wife was not registered in her own name on the flight, his detective instincts kick in. After some digging, he finds that she was traveling with another man — registered under the name "Mr. and Mrs. Cullen Chandler." And that leads him to Kay.

At first Kay doesn't want to believe Dutch; the death of her husband is painful enough without the embarassment of having been cheated on. But as he continues to press her for her ideas and feelings on the union of their respective better halves, the two grow close, and the issue changes from "what are we going to do about them?" to "what are we going to do about us?"

Assuming one can swallow this film's premise (try drinking a lot of water), it is not a bad cinematic experience. Thomas is engaging; Ford is a bit stiff, but still believable, but the two definitely have something going on (maybe they're cheating on Melissa Mathison and François Oliviennes). It goes on too long for such a film; there is a complicated subplot about Dutch's investigation of a fellow police officer that seems totally unnecessary. Perhaps it was included to balance with Kay's re-election story, but it muddles the love story and adds a half hour of unneeded filler. Besides the inclusion of this subplot, Pollack obviously had some difficulty in finding his scissors; there are many long pauses and unnecessary digressions.

Random Hearts is a nice showcase for Thomas's talent, and it's a slight departure for Ford, which makes it more enjoyable than watching him punch people out on an airplane. But you still have to get your mind around that silly premise. Good luck. ****

Copyright 1999 by John R. McEwen and The Republican

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