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Heartbreakers Movie Review

Movie Review by Anthony Leong © Copyright 2001

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Heartbreakers poster

Veteran actress Sigourney Weaver ("Galaxy Quest") and teen demographic fave Jennifer Love-Hewitt ("I Know What You Did Last Summer") are in "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels" mode in "Heartbreakers". Playing a conniving mother-daughter pair of swindlers while looking absolutely smashing in racy, Gary Jones-designed outfits, it is doubtful that "Heartbreakers" will advance either actress' career. Fortunately, director David Mirkin, who struck out in 1997 with "Romy & Michelle's High School Reunion", keeps this screwball comedy caper moving at a fairly snappy pace, with laughs frequent and funny enough to merit a good time.

Max (Weaver) and her daughter Page (Love-Hewitt) are old pros at swindling lonely upper-middle class men out of their money: Max reels the men in to marry her, while Page acts as 'bait' for a quickie divorce and cash settlement. However, while in Palm Beach, the gold-diggers lock onto the score of a lifetime, tobacco exec William B. Tensy (Gene Hackman, seen recently in "The Mexican"), who seems to already have one foot in the grave. With a potential $20 million windfall up for grabs, the duo set their trap, with Max pretending to be a Russian aristocrat named Ulga Yevanova, while Page infiltrates the Tensy household as a skimpily-attired maid.

Jennifer Love-Hewitt and Sigourney Weaver

Of course, this 'last score' ends up becoming fraught with unexpected problems. Max finds herself repulsed by Tensy, especially by his penchant for chain-smoking, raw steak dinners, and constant phlegm production. Meanwhile, Page, despite her better judgement, finds herself falling in love with the kind owner of a local bar (Jason Lee of "Almost Famous"), which creates additional complications when she learns that his bar is worth a cool $3 million, making him a lucrative mark. Finally, to make matters worse, their whole operation is put in jeopardy when their last victim, small-time Jersey hood Dean Cumanno (Ray Liotta of "Hannibal") shows up in Palm Beach, desperately seeking a second chance at marital bliss with Max.

Weaver and Gene Hackman

"Heartbreakers" certainly isn't going to win awards for originality, and the story does strain the limits of credibility on more than one occasion, but the script does throw enough zingers, which are eagerly executed with enthusiasm by the cast. While Weaver and Love-Hewitt certainly hold up their own, the comic highlight would have to be Liotta, whose character's 'Joizey' mob disposition delivers some of the film's best guffaws and is almost worth the price of admission. Hackman hacks and coughs his way through his memorable portrayal of a chain-smoking curmudgeon, though it would have been nice if his character had been given more to do other than being an unsuspecting mark. Rounding out the cast are some small but fair performances from Anne Bancroft ("Keeping the Faith") as a ruthless IRS agent and Nora Dunne ("Three Kings") as the militant head of Tensy's household.

With its boorish, crude, and exploitational execution, "Heartbreakers" certainly won't rank among the better entries of the 'female con artist' genre. But with comic performances that are irresistibly infectious, you may be ashamed to find yourself actually laughing with this giddy, if somewhat guilty, pleasure.

Images courtesy of MGM Studios. All rights reserved.

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