The evening of July 4, in Las Vegas, Hank (Forrest), a mechanic, and Frannie (Garr), a travel agent, break up while celebrating their fifth anniversary. He has been insensitive to her yearning for adventure and excitement. They both spend a night with their idealized partners — Hank goes with Leila, a nubile and beautiful circus girl (Kinski), and Frannie goes with Ray, a dark, handsome musician (Juliá).
After their nights of passion, Hank breaks down, tracks Frannie to her lover's apartment and abducts her. She refuses to stay with him and walks away, saying that this time it is goodbye forever.
Hank follows her to the airport, where Frannie is about to leave for her dream trip to Bora Bora. Hank sings to her to prove he is willing to be more romantic, but she boards the plane, saying it is too late. Hank, distraught, goes home and is about to burn her clothes when Frannie returns, realizing she "made a mistake."Frederic Forrest as Hank
Teri Garr as Frannie
Raúl Juliá as Ray
Nastassja Kinski as Leila
Lainie Kazan as Maggie
Harry Dean Stanton as Moe
Allen Garfield as Restaurant Owner
Rebecca de Mornay as Understudy
The director's parents, Carmine and Italia Coppola, appear as a couple in an elevator.
One From the Heart was originally to be financed by MGM, with the studio giving Coppola a record $2 million to direct. Coppola initially rejected the offer, then bought the rights to the property himself through his Zoetrope Studios, with MGM remaining as a distributor for North America. Zoetrope raised financing via foreign pre-sales and a loan from Chase Manhattan Bank.
Initially a romantic comedy, Coppola wanted a more ambitious film, raising the film's budget from $15 million to $23 million, paying for miniatures and lavish backgrounds. The film was almost entirely shot on Zoetrope sound stages. Coppola insisted on building sets to add to the artificiality of the proscenium.
However, Zoetrope was struggling to stay afloat, and its staff wound up working on a reduced payroll. The film's tax shelter investors pulled out, and thus MGM withdrew its support for the project. Eventually, Coppola got support from Canadian businessman Jack Singer, who agreed to lend $8 million to Zoetrope. In February 1981, Paramount Pictures took over as distributor.
Set construction included a replica of part of Las Vegas' McCarran Airport—complete with a jetway and jet airliner (built from the nose section of a crashed plane)—was built and used for the penultimate scene. The sets for the film took up all of the sound stage space at Coppola's recently acquired American Zoetrope studio. Because of the maze of wiring and flammable scrims, backdrops and other materials, production designer Dean Tavoularis half-jokingly referred to the Vegas Strip set—the centerpiece of the film—as a "firetrap", saying it caused him to have "nightmares about fires" during the film's production.
One from the Heart features an original soundtrack from Crystal Gayle and Tom Waits. Waits received an Academy Award nomination for Best Musical Score. Tavoularis, whose art department was next door to the musical rehearsal space, used Waits' music as tonal inspiration, incorporating it into the film's highly stylized "look." Mickey Hart, drummer for The Grateful Dead, and musician Bobby Vega were also credited for their contributions to the production.
Coppola used the opportunity to introduce a more economic method of filmmaking. Dubbed the "electronic cinema," it would involve shooting and editing a visual storyboard on videotape, allowing for a reference during the actual shooting on film.
A screening in San Francisco, California in August 1981 proved to be disappointing, and many exhibitors backed out of releasing it. Paramount decided on a general release in February 1982. The studio also stated that it would hold Oscar-consideration screenings in December 1981, but backed out; Coppola perceived that Paramount wanted to focus on Oscar campaigns for Reds and Ragtime, but the studio insisted that they didn't want to pose a threat to the wide release.
Coppola booked a New York City preview on January 15, 1982, at Radio City Music Hall without the authorization of Paramount. These screenings further soured the relationship between Coppola and Paramount, which was problematic during the arduous shooting and only increased as a result of the poor screening in San Francisco. Paramount ultimately pulled out of the distribution of the film, despite the fact that it was already booked in theaters throughout America. At almost the last minute, Coppola forged a new deal with Columbia Pictures.
The cost of the production and the film's failure to recoup at the box office resulted in Coppola declaring bankruptcy.
Coppola has said that the films he made during the rest of the 1980s and most of the 1990s, such as The Outsiders, Rumble Fish, The Cotton Club, The Godfather Part III, Jack and The Rainmaker, were done to pay off the debts incurred by One from the Heart.
As of June 2016, it has a 48% "rotten" rating on Rotten Tomatoes from 31 critics Janet Maslin in the New York Times described it as an "innovative, audacious effort," but said the film lacked story and tension. In a later interview, Coppola has said that the film was still a "work in progress" when screened for blind bidding. He said the unfinished version was "a mess". He went on to say that "it was clear that it wasn't going to get a fair shot."
The film's cinematography has come to be lauded in recent years. In the Los Angeles Times, Susan King praised One from the Heart as "so visually arresting, it's shocking that it wasn't well received back in 1982." Philip French called the film "visually stunning", but also considered it to "[alternate] between the banal and the sublime". Warren Clements of The Globe and Mail stated, "It has the form, style and often the content of a romantic fantasy, but the central love story is between two characters who don't seem to like each other very much. It is a candy with a sour centre."
The movie grossed $389,249 on its first weekend on 41 theaters, with a total gross of $636,796, against a $26 million budget.