Director: David Mirkin
Cast: Sigourney Weaver, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Ray Liotta, Gene Hackman, Jason Lee, Anne Bancroft
MPAA Rating: (for sex-related content including dialogue)
Running Time: 2:03
Release Date: 3/23/01
Review by Mark Dujsik
The con game is an interesting subject for study and entertainment. You can expect double-crosses and back-stabbings galore and, in effect, a few unexpected twists. Heartbreakers is a surprisingly dull comedy with a smart cast and a predictably uninteresting script. This is a movie with a lot of talent in it, but it never takes off. There are slightly amusing moments and, for at least three of the performers, intelligent comedic performances, but they are stuck in a string of worn jokes and far too much story for a light amusement such as this. Performances can make a lesser movie seem better than it is, but material like this cannot be saved, no matter how funny some performances are.
Maxine and Paige Conners (Sigourney Weaver and Jennifer Love Hewitt) are a mother/daughter con team. Maxine marries rich men with reputations to keep, and Paige seduces them so that Maxine wins big in divorce settlements. The movie opens with Maxine conning Dean Cummano (Ray Liotta), a "legitimate businessman," in this fashion. Once the con is over, the two discover that the IRS have essentially taken their money because of tax evasion, and now the only thing left to do is take on last big score. Maxine decides to take some advice from Marilyn Monroe’s character in Some Like It Hot and head down to Florida, where rich, elderly men are prone to reside. She finds great promise in William B. Tensy (Gene Hackman), a tobacco tycoon with a horrendous cough, but Paige wants to go out on her own. She heads off to a local bar to follow her choice but, after a series of pratfalls, blames the bartender (and the bar’s owner, which she learns later) Jack for her failure. She also finds something strange about him—her charm has no effect on him.
The performances really carry what’s satisfying about this movie, although there is a problem, surprisingly enough, with the two leads. Weaver and Hewitt’s mother/daughter relationship is unconvincing. A big part of this has to do with the deficient script by Robert Dunn, Paul Guay, and Stepehn Mazur. Weaver is an actress of extraordinary talent, and Hewitt has much more promise than this movie allows her to display. The end result is that these characters seem like tour guides, leading us to the skilled performances by the supporting males. Lee is charming and sarcastically funny (as per usual) as Jack, and the twist in his character is probably that most original aspect of this movie. That’s obviously not saying much. Liotta plays around with his screen persona to much success. Hackman is the real showcase performance. He’s in full-fledged W.C. Fields mode—liver-spots, reddened nose, and an eternal cigarette or cigar in his mouth. His character is onscreen far too little, but he makes a lot of his minimal screentime.
Then there are the unfortunate conventions of the script. Making the people surrounding the pair far more interesting than the pair themselves is probably the most fatal flaw, although there are a few more. The plot is predictable, and it eventually turns into an annoying romantic comedy with Lee and Hewitt, with all the conventions of that genre included. The major conflict in that story depends on Jack misinterpreting Paige, and Paige not being able to stand up to her mother. Then the movie throws in a final twist which is irrelevant to story and just adds more unwanted screentime to this already overlong two hour comedy. The ending in good movies always comes too soon, and the ending in bad movies cannot come soon enough.
Heartbreakers could have been a very mild entertainment, but it’s far too intent on fitting in as much as possible into the already shallow material. There’s not enough material to fill two hours, and perhaps with some substantial cuts, it could have achieved success. As it is, it’s simply the same old game.
Copyright © 2001 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.
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