This movie is so bad that it's an insult to the audience.

HEARTBREAKERS

A Illusion review by Joan Ellis.


The promotional hype on Heartbreakers runs like this: "Max and Page are a mother and daughter team of con artists. Their scam seems flawless." The scam: Max (Sigourney Weaver) seduces rich men and marries them while daughter Page (Jennifer Love Hewitt) steps quickly in for a pre-consummation seduction that gives Mom grounds for an immediate high-price divorce.

Con games and comedy are a natural combination, but they need both humor and magic--think of Paul Newman and Robert Redford in The Sting. There is no magic in Heartbreakers. Even the oldest con games in the world, especially cards or gold digging, need the kind of acting sophistication that looks like a wink to the audience. This movie is so bad that it's an insult to the audience. Instead of an elegant scam, it becomes a series of ham-fisted sight gags.

The filmmakers seem inordinately proud of twin conceits. One is the apparent desire to show how beautifully Sigourney Weaver is aging (and she is). The camera lingers endlessly on her body; her face is shown in lineless perfection. Do we care? This competent and successful actress is made to look like a fool. The other motivating force here seems to be the decision to tackle the subject of erections. If it were done with a light touch (Malena), it would be fun, but these broomsticks are held with heavy hands.

If the movie were flamboyantly amoral, it might have worked, but it is sullen. Mother and daughter carp at each other. Instead of planning their clever conquests with zest, they whine. The supporting cast is embarrassing. Gene Hackman, as a rich chain-smoker who coughs his spit into Max's mouth through yellowish brown teeth, is a ludicrous caricature. His exaggeration is intended, I suppose, to show us just how low Max will sink for money, but Mr. Hackman is just silly. Ray Liotta, whose character runs a successful chop shop, lacks the devilish charm that could make him a winning dupe.

Jennifer Love Hewitt's Page, falling for one of her victims, turns from good to bad and back again so often that we can't imagine how her lover can want her in his life. Jason Lee plays Jack, a man who falls inexplicably in love with this woman who betrays him without guilt. With her trademark indecision, Page can't make up her mind whether to love him or fleece him.

The men in the picture are weak and spineless-supposedly made so by the allure of the two women. Rendering men helpless in the face of sexual promise isn't very interesting these days. It's a premise that has lost its punch. Nowadays a scam movie needs the light heart and laughter of Noel Coward, Paul Newman, or Barbara Stanwyck, who made fun of human frailties with grace. They sent elegant stilettos through their targets. The present company pounds their victims with wielding sledgehammers.


Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Word Count : 498
Studio : MGM
Rating : PG-13
Running time : 2h3m


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