Heartbreakers

Published on: March 23rd, 2004

HEARTBREAKERS

6/10

USA 2001
director : David Mirkin
script : Robert Dunn, Paul Guay, Stephen Mazur
cinematography : Dean Semler
editing : William Steinkamp
music : John Debney
lead actors : Sigourney Weaver, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Ray Liotta, Gene Hackman
123 minutes

Overlong, glossy farce aiming to update classy 40s con movies like Preston Sturges’ (now badly dated) Lady Eve. This time the grifters are mother-and-daughter combo Sigourney Weaver and Jennifer Love Hewitt: Weaver weds some rich patsy, then Hewitt lures him into infidelity – which the outraged new bride then ‘accidentally’ stumbles across. Cue divorce and hefty settlement. After fleecing New Jersey car-dealer Ray Liotta, the pair whizz down to Florida where they size up octogenarian tobacco billionaire Gene Hackman as a suitable mark, only for complications to ensue when Hewitt falls for a decent local bar-owner Jason Lee.

It’s Weaver’s movie, almost to the extent of feeling like a showcase for her talents: she gets to poses in a variety of slinky, revealing outfits, put on false wigs and accents, even sock out a show-stopping musical number. Hackman tries his best to steal the show, milking his broadly comic bits as the repulsive oldster, while Michael (Best In Show) Hitchcock, as a mother-dominated potential target, has only two things to do in his one scene, but does both to such perfection he’s arguably the best thing about the whole movie.

On the down-side, Hewitt struggles to make the harpy-like daughter appealing. While she’s attractive enough looks-wise, her obnoxious personality means she’s hardly a plausible match for Lee’s Ralph-Bellamy-ish nice guy. Their on-off romance takes up far too much screen time, which is especially annoying considering we don’t get nearly enough of Liotta – there’s a long stretch in the middle when he’s nowhere to be seen, and things go with much more zip when he returns to the fray.

Even so, the former goodfella fares much better than poor Jeffrey Jones – despite his prominent billing, his role is little more than a bit-part, suggesting Heartbreakers must have been trimmed down from an even longer version. As it is, the convoluted shenanigans of the various plot intrigues make for a protracted two-hours-plus – there are just enough laughs to make it worth sitting through, but if you’re after after a twisty black comedy of Floridian double-crosses, John McNaughton’s gleefully trashy Wild Things is sharper, funnier, and, more important, much shorter.

14th June, 2001

by Neil Young
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