|"Heartbreakers" Movie Review
Sigourney Weaver and Jennifer Love Hewitt star as a pair of mother-daughter con artists who have almost perfected the art of ripping off wealthy men. Working as a team, Max (Weaver) sets the con up by seducing rich men into matrimony, withholding sex until after the vows. Daughter Page (Hewitt), wearing the tightest outfits this side of Erin Brockovich, then swoops in for the kill. Page, and her chest, manipulate the just-married men into some very compromising positions which Max then "accidentally" stumbles upon. Within 24 hours of marriage, the newlyweds are headed to the divorce lawyer. Hours after that, the mother-daughter team count their money while searching for their next "mark." Max is so competent at her work that even after the marriage ceremony is over, she finds ways to avoid sleeping with her new, and by this point, very randy husband.
Fearing Page's desire to go out on her own - thus breaking up the team and reducing the cash flow - Max works a con on her own daughter. A trip to the bank to split up their earnings sets the stage for Max's plan to keep her daughter with her for at least one more big score. Max and Page are met at the bank by an IRS agent (Anne Bancroft) who demands all their available funds, plus an additional amount for back taxes that they don't have the means to pay. Despite her strong desire to go it alone, Page agrees to one more con with a stipulation - they find the mark in Palm Beach. Shuddering at the thought, Max agrees. They trawl the area for a likely target, grudgingly agreeing on the very old, very revolting, very phlegmy, ultra-rich tobacco tycoon, William B. Tensy (Gene Hackman). After much complicated maneuvering, Max, using a Russian accent and wearing some very bizarre dominatrix-style outfits, manages to worm her way into William's smoke-filled life.
Former husband/mark Dean Cumanno (Ray Liotta) never got over his unconsummated marriage to Max. He tracks them to Palm Beach and discovers that he's been had. Rather than call the police, he decides to get in on the action. While mom has been busy with the tobacco tycoon with one foot in the grave, Page has been deluding herself into thinking she can handle a con on her own. She set her sites on bar owner and potential millionaire, Jack Withrowe (Jason Lee). Dean sees dollar signs, pretends to be a member of Page's family, changes his name to something that sounds like it's straight from "The Sopranos," and works with Max to get the two hitched. But there is one enormous complication. Page has committed the ultimate con artist sin; she's fallen in love with the mark.
Some films take you by surprise and "Heartbreakers" does just that. The commercials/trailers for this film do not do justice to the comedic work of the talented cast. Jennifer Love Hewitt doesn't appear to be out of her league playing alongside some of Hollywood's best. She shines - with the help of some great screenwriting, tight outfits, and a necklace that accentuates her attributes. Sigourney Weaver is terrific as the mother who struggles with her conscience while training her daughter to follow in her footsteps. Gene Hackman tackles the role of millionaire tobacco tycoon with such cleverness that his physical comedy steals nearly every scene. Ray Liotta and Jason Lee are perfect as the "marks" with the bad luck of loving the women attempting to con them. Ray Liotta delivers some of the film's best lines and keeps the last half-hour of the film going, almost single-handedly. Jason Lee, as the innocent nice guy who falls for Page's considerable charms and psychotic personality, gets the opportunity to display a gentler side than we've seen from him in recent roles. A lesser actor would be lost in this part, but Lee pulls off his co-starring role with skill and finesse.
Overall Grade: B
Shot April thru August 2000 on a $40 million budget, "Heartbreakers" grossed $11.8 million during its opening weekend (March 24-25). The film has a PG-13 rating due to sexually-related content.
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