HEARTBREAKERS(director: David Mirkin; screenwriters: Robert Dunn/Paul Guay/ Stephen Mazur; cinematographer: Dean Semler; editor: William Steinkamp; cast: Sigourney Weaver (Angela Nardino/ Max Conners/Ulga Yevanova), Jennifer Love Hewitt (Wendy/Page Conners/Jane Helstrom), Ray Liotta (Dean Cumanno/Vinny Staggliano), Jason Lee (Jack Withrowe), Anne Bancroft (Gloria Vogal/Barbara), Nora Dunn (Housekeeper), Gene Hackman (William B. Tensy), Michael Hitchcock (Dr. Davis); Runtime: 120; MGM; 2001)
“What the comedy had going for it was a lot of spunk, enough to overlook the film’s many drawbacks.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Sigourney Weaver and Jennifer Love Hewitt are mother-and-daughter con artists. Their scheme is for mom, a sexy fortysomething, to marry a rich man after a short courtship and then get her curvaceous daughter, a twentysomething, to entice the new husband to make sexual advances toward her. Mom thereby gets a quickie divorce settlement when the vic succumbs to the enticements with mom viewing it. Then the deadly duo finds a new target, using different names and disguises. It results in laughs that are engineered from the lowest common denominator of comedy. But the good news is that there are laughs to be had if you are willing to bite into the over-the-top performances, the unseemly sight gags, and the absurd plot. The bad news is that the film is sympathetic to these revolting hustlers and the film’s amoral theme is hard to justify, except to say that this is a film not to be taken seriously. It is just a cartoon for adults. The film also begins to drag, as the premise grows weary from overkill.
The latest victim is Ray Liotta, a chop-shop operator from New Jersey and a womanizer, who lusts for Weaver. On their wedding night, she passes out from too much drink. Hewitt, his new office worker, tempts him when he returns to the office during his wife’s wedding night sleeping attack. She bends down and shows him her lovely ass and big boobs sticking out of her skimpy outfit. This arouses him to the point of his pouncing on her and then getting caught in a compromising position just as mom walks in, recovered from her wedding night blues.
The divorce settlement is $300,000 and a Mercedes-Benz but it’s not enough to pay off the IRS according to an agent (Anne Bancroft), who closes mom’s bank account. The petulant daughter wanted out of the partnership, anxious to go on her own con jobs, which is the reason why mom arranged for the phony con artist IRS agent, her old friend who taught her the ropes. She does this to keep Hewitt with her, even if it is a dysfunctional relationship she is trying to save–one filled with all the signs of a Freudian-like mother-daughter rivalry. Needing a big score, the con women head to Palm Beach, Florida, to lure tobacco tycoon Gene Hackman, whom mom sees as a disgusting man on his last legs and is someone they can get millions from. But while mom pretends to be an exotic Russian to catch the chain-smoking and constantly coughing and wheezing Hackman’s interest, her daughter falls for the only nice guy in the film, bartender and restaurant owner, Jason Lee. He also owns the piece of waterfront property the restaurant sits on, that is worth $3,000,000. She wavers back and forth on whether his love for her is sincere or if he’s just goofy, as she decides whether to con him or not.
“Heartbreakers” is a forgettable fluff film, that tries unsuccessfully to work its way to romance and also be a caper flick. It works best when showing off the boobs of Weaver and Hewitt who are outfitted in dresses sluts would wear to walk the streets, as the film proudly relies on the old adage — that sex sells. There were a number of funny bits and they mostly came from Hackman’s W. C. Fields-like performance, calling out for the love of smoking and preaching its virtues, even encouraging children to take up smoking. In one scene he blows smoke into a parrot’s cage and it soon keels over. The rest of the comedy was delivered by Liotta’s enthusiastic over-the-top way of doing things, whether fishing by firing a gun into the ocean, ditching a corpse New Jersey-style, or by preparing for sex while almost completely naked and tied to the bedposts. What the comedy had going for it was a lot of spunk, enough to overlook the film’s many drawbacks.
REVIEWED ON 4/1/2001 GRADE: C+
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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