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The restrained and civil "Random Hearts" could use a lot more heat and energy.

None Too Brief Encounter

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If the Clinton-Lewinsky fiasco didn't convince Hollywood of mainstream America's indifference to adultery, one would think the lackluster box office receipts of Stanley Kubrick's "Eyes Wide Shut" would have. But no, here they go again. And despite its major star and well-known director, "Random Hearts" is far too restrained to have wide appeal. This soberly acted and deliberately paced mature romance takes forever to get going. For 45 minutes we sit in our seats, waiting. Waiting for the two leads just to meet. And we know they meet, for heaven's sake; we even know they kiss. We've seen the trailer. But the prolonged separation has nothing to do with the usual star-crossed lovers shtick. In "Random Hearts," the eventual lovers are thrust together after losing their respective spouses in a plane crash. Harrison Ford plays Sgt. Dutch Van Den Broeck, a member of the D.C. police's office of internal affairs. Happy in his comfortable suburban life with his beautiful blonde wife, Ford's straight-arrow cop thinks nothing of it when hears about the crash of Flight 437 to Miami. Similarly, New Hampshire congresswoman Kay Chandler (Kristin Scott Thomas) pays little attention to the news after learning the plane's destination. Although her husband did fly out of town that morning, she believes he was headed to New York. In scenes that reveal every minute detail of how airlines handle the aftermath of a catastrophe, Dutch and Kay react differently to the tragic discovery that their spouses were on the flight. Looking like a battered bulldog, Ford's Dutch is grief-stricken. Watching his slow realization that his wife was having an affair sink in through that grief is poignant. Ford is masculine as ever, using his anger to mask his pain; he's soon determined to find out everything he can about the affair. Thomas' Kay, however, is a born politician. She sees nothing but political trouble stemming from public knowledge of her dead husband's affair. Embroiled in the reelection campaign of her career, she's also savvy enough to use her recent tragedy to garner more voter support. When Kay can no longer avoid Dutch's dogged determination, she agrees to accompany him to Miami to see first-hand the seductive setting for what they've learned was a long-term affair between their mutual mates. But those evil hounds in the press get a scent of their mission, spelling PR problems for Kay. "Sooner or later, everybody knows everything," Dutch intones gravely to Kay, just before the two lunge at each other amorously. All very adult and mature, the action in "Random Hearts" rarely speaks louder than the words. And that's a shame. There's this hushed quality to the movie that combined with its snail's pacing seems almost funereal. The words and performances seem more intellectual than emotional, making this romance one for the mind and not the heart. However, to pull off such a feat, the performances of both lead actors need to reflect that. Ford gives director Sydney Pollack his best Robert Redford-esque portrayal of a man keeping an iron grip on his heartbreak. Our anticipation builds as we wait for the inevitable dam-break of his emotions. But it never really comes. Part of the problem is Thomas. A talented actress to be sure, it's just that she is emotionally distancing. While we believe her softening transition from pragmatic politician, we saw her accomplish this very same trick in last year's "The Horse Whisperer." Although wonderfully crafted, "Random Hearts" is far too deliberate and restrained. A little less thought and a lot more heat, especially between Ford and Thomas, would have made the romance more touching.

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