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HEARTBREAKERS

SYNOPSIS:
Maxine (Sigourney Weaver) and her daughter Page (Jennifer Love Hewitt) are living on a long-running, and mostly successful, scam. Maxine marries wealthy men, then has Page come on to them. When they fall for her charms, Maxine “discovers” them, immediately files for divorce and walks off with a sizeable settlement. When the scam works on Maxine’s latest victim Dean (Ray Liotta), Page wants to head out on her own. But problems with the IRS see them in need of money fast. So the pair head to Palm Beach in hope of one big score to solve their problems. They find the perfect candidate in tobacco tycoon William B Tensey (Gene Hackman). But Page wants to prove herself the equal of her mum, and targets Jack (Jason Lee) the young man who runs a beachside bar worth a fortune in real estate.

It takes talent to pull off a piece of fluff, as the filmmakers of old knew full well. Especially the sort of comedy that relies on larger than life scenarios, and characterisations. Here, the talent pool is rich, with award winning Australian cinematographer Dean Semler joining an illustrious crew that extends to the musos, Elfman and Debney. Heartbreakers follows a tradition of the ‘con artist redeemed’ structure and delivers its payoff with expert direction. But director David Mirkin is well served by an exemplary cast of pros in Sigourney Weaver, Gene Hackman, Ray Liotta and Anne Bancroft, but the youngsters are every bit as good, with Jennifer Love Hewitt stealing her scenes with ease. Jason Lee, too, is excellent in a pivotal role. It’s great ensemble work and often outright funny, and while the cast make the comic and emotional mechanics work, it is the script and direction that generate buoyancy and pace. Heartbreakers is certainly not politically correct as routine feminism goes; but the men don’t shine, either. Neither is it self important or moralising, even though it ultimately relies on a moral sort of ending. (Well, whaddaya expect?) The first objective is entertainment, and if it takes a bit of overacting, so be it. Even so, we are never taken for fools and the core of each character is real enough. Laughs out loud pepper the film, so take it as an easy dose of medicine.
Andrew L. Urban

If you've seen the trailer you've seen just about everything that's funny about this hodge podge of Preston Sturges comedies and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. Criminally overlong at 126 minutes, Heartbreakers splutters into life occasionally but never builds any momentum as it telegraphs its gags a couple of miles ahead every time. With an amount of cleavage on display that would have done Russ Meyer proud and the services of a fine cast of funsters this really should have been a lot funnier. Instead it lumbers along as Max and Page make for Miami where chain-smoking big fish Tensey (Gene Hackman) is set up for the kill. Hackman's WC Fields impersonation is amusing for a while but his phlegm splutterings and wheezing routine grows tiresome after the tenth time. Ray Liotta comes off best and at least injects some sadly lacking energy when he re-enters the frame at about the half-way point. There are scenes here that should be big laugh-getters - Weaver being forced onstage to sing at a Russian restaurant among them - but in almost every instance we've worked out the punchline already and it's just a question of waiting for it to arrive. Also the details of the smaller scams the mother-daughter team play are too often barely believable, even within the realms of broad farce such as this. Do we really think they can get away with sprinkling glass in their salads at fancy restaurants without any question from the management? Director David Mirkin, who did an inspired job with a distaff duo in Romy and Michelle's High School reunion, simply hasn't got the screenplay ammunition to make this more than a spotty comedy that resembles the spare parts of much better films. It's a shame because there are moments when everything clicks - alas they are too few and far between.
Richard Kuipers

While watching Heartbreakers, I couldn’t help but think of those bedroom farce comedies so prevalent in the 1960s. They certainly weren’t world beating cinema, but they were often amusing diversions. So it is with this effort from director David Mirkin (is that his real name, I wonder?). Heartbreakers is slightly updated from those 1960s comedies, but the basic mix of sex, money, petty crime and oddball characters remains the same. Indeed, if it were to be taken seriously, this movie could put the women’s rights movement back 50 years. Sure, in a sense these are working women, but their sole source of income is from men. They need rich men to finance their lifestyle; and while their ruthlessness is the equal of any man’s, they can hardly be said to be “doin’ it for themselves”. Heartbreakers however is unlikely to ever be taken seriously, thanks to Mirkin’s light-hearted touch with the material, and generally sunny performances from the star-studded cast. While things do move along at a smart pace, the film simply can’t support its two hour running time; and stumbles to a limp sugary conclusion. It would have been far better served by some judicious cutting. Sigourney Weaver and Jennifer Love Hewitt manage to pull of their roles as the mother-daughter scammers despite some embarrassing moments, and appear to be having a lot of fun. Gene Hackman has a surprisingly truncated part (no pun intended, for those who’ve seen the film) and is suitably repulsive; while Jason Lee by contrast is almost unbearably charming. But the best thing about the movie is Ray Liotta, who is a hoot. Playing a caricature of his trademark wise guy, he shows great comic touch. Although Heartbreakers is too long, too implausible and occasionally lacks spark, it’s nonetheless a mildly entertaining cream puff of a movie.
David Edwards

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 1
Unfavourable: 1
Mixed: 1

See our INTERVIEW with Jennifer Love Hewitt

TRAILER

HEARTBREAKERS (M)
(US)

CAST: Sigourney Weaver, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Gene Hackman, Ray Liotta, Jason Lee, Anne Bancroft

PRODUCERS: John Davis, Irving Ong,

DIRECTOR: David Mirkin

SCRIPT: Robert Dunn, Paul Guay, Stephen Mazur

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Dean Semler

EDITOR: William Steinkamp

MUSIC: Danny Elfman (theme music), John Debney

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Lilly Kilvert

RUNNING TIME: 126 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Buena Vista Int

VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: BVHE

VIDEO RELEASE: January 9, 2002

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: July 5, 2001







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