In the '70s, a trendy theory appeared called the Peter Principle, which states that many people undergo a tremendous rise until reaching their level of incompetence. Napoleon, for example, rose to conquer most of Europe before reaching the point where, having exhausted his energy and talent, he had no option but to fail. Whether or not you buy the Peter Principle, a similar force is at work in Hollywood, where gifted character actors often rise to their level of mediocrity. Take Kristin Scott Thomas. Her presence in a supporting role used to guarantee that even a movie like Angels And Insects would offer something of interest. Since becoming a star thanks to The English Patient, Thomas' price has risen, making it only financially sensible to appear in projects that can afford her. Unfortunately, that also limits her choices. So, like many before her, Thomas now finds herself doing the best she can in big-budget projects that waste her, a problem illustrated by Random Hearts. Harrison Ford, who long ago resigned himself to the same fate, plays a Washington, D.C., internal-affairs cop whose wife dies in a plane crash accompanying another man. This turns out to be the husband of a Republican congresswoman (Thomas) who faces a difficult re-election campaign; eventually, the two find each other and embark on an affair born out of bitterness, frustration, and the necessities of plot. Based on a novel by Warren Adler (The War Of The Roses), Random Hearts starts off well enough. Director Sydney Pollack films the initial drama—as both Thomas and Ford find out about the deaths of their unfaithful spouses in the grim and businesslike atmosphere of the accident's aftermath—with an interesting air of detachment. But as the film progresses, it becomes clear that it's not so much detachment as boredom. Maybe Pollack meant to film scenes in which the smallest twitch of the eyebrow is invested with tremendous significance, a la Eyes Wide Shut, but Random Hearts' torturously drawn-out scenes instead feel like he accidentally kept the camera rolling between takes. There's nothing interesting about either protagonist, and nothing the least bit convincing about their romance, particularly once Thomas and Ford are reduced to spouting monologues that wouldn't pass muster in a Danielle Steel novel. A cast filled with talented character actors (Charles S. Dutton, Bonnie Hunt, Dylan Baker, Edie Falco) should take note to avoid such stuff should they ever achieve the next tier of stardom.
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