Looking for Mr. Trite

Lesbians have feelings too. That's the earth-shattering revelation at the core of three of hearts. (What is it with lower-case titles these days? bodies, rest & motion, the night we never met A am i the only one who finds the trend precious?)

For the first twenty minutes or so, three of hearts looks promising. On a crisp day in Greenwich Village's Washington Square Park, a pair of young lovers bust up. "I need time to be by myself," says Ellen, a petite brunette, to her motorcycle-jacketed paramour. It's a common enough scene in Hollywood movies, but there's a twist this time around. Ellen is dumping a woman, a lovestruck nurse named Connie.

Connie has got it bad for Ellen and does not accept the abrupt ending gracefully. Kelly Lynch, a lanky, raw-boned ex-model who bravely played against type as a strung-out junkie in Drugstore Cowboy, succeeds in looking weathered and rough and decidedly unglamorous as the jilted RN. Too bad her performance is not on a par with her ability to downplay her striking features. She is intermittently convincing at best, and downright unwatchable at times.

Sherilyn Fenn doesn't fare much better as Ellen, a soft-spoken NYU literature instructor whose prior sexual relationships were all with men. Ellen breaks up with Connie for reasons that are never quite made clear. Did she just fall out of love? Has she decided she prefers men? Does she really "need her space"? For a movie that bills itself as a candid look at offbeat relationships, these are important questions. three of hearts never answers them satisfactorily.

The separation couldn't come at a more inopportune time for Connie. Ellen breaks the news on the eve of Connie's sister's wedding, at which the nurse had been planning to formally come out of the closet with Ellen at her side. Rather than go alone, she hires hunky Joe Casella, a dashing male escort played by William Baldwin. Baldwin alone is what makes the first part of the film tick A whether talking dirty on the phone to a client from his bathroom or charming Ellen's Old World parents at her sister's reception, he's the perfect rogue.

The best scenes in the film occur at the wedding, where Joe, who has no idea about his date's sexual preference, convinces the sarcastic sapphist that he's not such a bad guy for a whore. Unfortunately these are followed by the intrusion of a subplot contrived specifically to provide a convenient device to bring Joe and Connie together as platonic roommates. And this is where the whole thing starts to collapse under the weight of predictable, lifeless writing and shoddy acting.

Connie cooks up a plan for Joe to help her win back Ellen by wooing her, dumping her, and letting Connie step in to pick up the pieces. But something goes awry with her scheme when A surprise, surprise A Joe falls in love with Ellen.

Not for a minute do we buy Baldwin's transition from streetwise hustler to starstruck lover. He is a handsome guy in a glossy GQ way; he smirks wonderfully and he's an okay brooder. But unlike his famous brother Alec, Billy Baldwin doesn't convey much activity below the surface. He's believable and even charming as a high-paid call boy; as a self-effacing, sensitive sweetheart he's about as credible as Rip Torn playing Rambo.

Don't be fooled by the slick ad campaign or the manufactured controversy swirling about three of hearts. The lead characters' sexual preferences have no more bearing on the story than their hairstyles or the color of their shoes. By pretending to be something it's not, three of hearts ultimately trivializes the very subject it pretends to examine.


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