Heartbreakers (2001)

Rated PG-13 for sex-related content including dialogue.

Starring Sigourney Weaver, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Gene Hackman, Ray Liotta, Jason Lee.
Directed by David Mirkin.
Written by Robert Dunn, Paul Guay, Stephen Mazur, Scott Buck, David Mirkin and Phil Alden Robinson.
Distributed by MGM.
123 minutes.

  
Photo ©MGM. All rights reserved.

Funny Con-Women Comedy

I went into this movie hoping to see a goofy comedy that I could just sit back and enjoy myself with, laughing and taking it easy. I got what I wanted. Heartbreakers, directed by David Mirkin, is just what the doctor ordered: a light, fun movie in the vein of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.

The story is about the mother-daughter team of Max (Sigourney Weaver) and Page (Jennifer Love Hewitt), con-women who victimize rich men. Their latest victim, as the film begins, is Dean (Ray Liotta), and what happens to him is apparently old hat to the ladies: Max gets Dean to marry her, and, on the day following their wedding night, he is tempted by Page, in disguise as an employee. Page plays Dean so that he will be tempted to make a pass at her, and just as he does, in pops Max. She plays hurt, the divorce lawyers comes in, and she gets a sizeable settlement, after which mother and daughter meet up and then promply leave town.

At this point, Page wants out because she feels she's experienced enough now to "go solo." Max convinces her to join her for one more con, so off they go to Florida. After selecting an old, wheezing cigarette tycoon named William Tensy (Gene Hackman) as their next victim, the pair go to work. However, restless with the game now, Page decides to secretly and simultaneously work on her own, trying to nab a doctor and his wealth. She is sidetracked by a nice bartender named Jack (Jason Lee), who also happens to own the little bar that he tends for. Jack turns out to be more than just a distraction for Page; meanwhile, Max is not finding things an easy go with Tensy.

The main thing that makes this comedy work is the pleasure of watching the actors. Weaver and Hewitt work well together. Weaver especially looks like she's really just having a lot of fun. Hewitt, for the most part, plays a character who always has a sour expression on her face, but she looks like she's right at home, especially in her rather funny exchanges with Lee. Lee's early confusion at Hewitt's character are just right. Meanwhile, both leading ladies look like they're in, well, great shape, which only adds merit to the things that they are supposedly able to get away with.

The real surprises here, though, are Hackman and Liotta. Gene Hackman's turn as the chain-smoking, coughing, good-natured but dirty old man is hilarious. Dressed in bad get-ups and all liver-spotted up, he really doesn't get a whole lot of screen time but he makes the most of it. Liotta does more than just get duped and dumped in the beginning of the movie, and he comes back with a manic vengeance. His character was my favorite in the movie; he's unscrupulous, but makes no apologies for being who he is, and yet proves to be insightful in the most humble way. He has the two best lines in the movie for me. When he says, "Love is pain, life is pain!... Anyways, it's all common sense," that pretty much sums up the identifiable philosophy of his character. And when he overhears a conversation by Page and Jack, in which Page apologizes for being misleading (which she easily has been) and Jack replies by calling her sweet and wonderful, Liotta's character mutters to himself, "Moron!" I really liked this guy by the end of the movie; he was victimized, but happy to be a man in a movie where most men are made to look pretty bad. And he was funny throughout.

The movie does have its few awkward moments. I really don't see the continued appeal of statue-penis jokes, such as the ones we also saw in The Wedding Planner. There are jokes here and there that didn't really work, but then that's getting too picky. Overall, the movie has a loose sense of fun, and all the actors look like they're into it. I seem to get a kick out of watching a movie where the characters in it are constantly trying to outwit each other, and it's all the more better when it's a comedy. Dare I used a hackneyed critic's convention here? I might as well. If you liked Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, Heartbreakers should entertain you every bit as much.

Rating: 7/10

©Jeffrey Chen, Mar. 24, 2001

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