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movie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Heartbreakers

Starring: Sigourney Weaver, Jennifer Love Hewitt
Director: David Mirkin
Rated: PG-13
RunTime: 123 Minutes
Release Date: March 2001
Genre: Comedy

Review by Harvey Karten
No Rating Supplied

Joan Baez, while hardly a stay-at-home woman, loved to sing the lyrics of Marty Tipton's Appalachian folk song during the seventies: "Hard is the fortune of all womankind,/ She's always controlled, she's always confined,/ Controlled by her parents until she's a wife,/ A slave to her husband all the rest of her life." This was obviously before she saw the movie "Heartbreakers," definitive proof that men are the weaker sex--or, as Harry Belafonte would chime in, "Put the man and the woman together, to see which one is smarter," coming the conclusion that the latter will always emerge victorious. The David Mirkin ("Romy and Michel's High School Reunion") story is of two strong women not unaccustomed to twisting men about their fingers by setting them up in a scam which, looking at its possibilities in the real world, simply would not result in capturing any bucks at all. The mother-daughter team of Angela Nardino (Sigourney Weaver) and Wendy (Jennifer Love Hewitt) sets up men by having them fall in love with and marrying mom who, finding an excuse not to consummate the union on the wedding night, arranges to have her little girl organize them into a compromising position. Caught in the act (although nothing really happens), the men come across with fat settlements rather than have the cases go before a court which--in at least one case--would have the effect of ruining a crooked guy's profitable business.

The film was a big surprise for me as I had gone into this thinking it would be yet some more commercial pap, more sentimental than cynical and with gags that would not challenge the mentality of my 10-year-old terrier. Yet "Heartbreakers" was involving throughout its two-hour running time and did not at all depend on the expertise of Gene Hackman to bring it to life a half-hour into the game.

Fans of "Hannibal" will get a kick out of seeing Ray Liotta with his head screwed back on. Liotta performs in the role of a stolen-car serviceman, Dean Cumanno, who falls madly in love with the sexy Angela only to be left high and literally dry on his icy wedding night. The following morning, his attention is riveted on his pretty receptionist, Wendy, and while she is engaging him under the desk the two are caught in the act by the "heartbroken" Angela. Looking to make one last score before they hang up their uplift bras, the two hone in on aging billionaire tobacco executive, William B. Tensy (Gene Hackman), figuring that even if he doesn't buy the daughter's mock seduction after marrying Angela, he might do them a favor by dropping dead, thereby leaving them the major part of three billion dollars. Perpetually puffing on his product, the liver-spotted Tensy not only kills a parrot instantly with second-hand smoke but brags about his experiments addicting nine-year-olds with the weed. This movie does more to deride the tobacco industry than Michael Mann's "The Insider" could.

In the film's only sentimental motif, Wendy risks falling in love with Jack Withrowe (Jason Lee), owner of prime property in California's Palm Beach--the very hazard that her mother had warned her against.

The fifty-one-year-old Sigourney Weaver never looked better, figuratively running rings around her adorable but too outwardly meanspirited daughter played by Hewitt. The mother-daughter combination works well, giving the audience the impression of a love-hate relationship between a girl of scarcely twenty years old wanting independence and her own life while at the same caring deeply about her and respecting the moneymaking schemes on which they thrive. Jason Lee does fine as a somewhat goofy and naive owner of a bar, unwilling to see that he is being taken for a ride despite ample evidence, and Saturday Night Live's Nora Dunn has a grand moment as Miss Madress, a billionaire's housekeeper not fond of letting any woman into the life of her aging employer.

Except for Lee's character, there's no one among these dirty rotten scoundrels that you'd want to take home (wait: I take that back), but who cares? This is a well-paced, genuinely amusing piece of work that subverts the tobacco industry as well as the more potentially deadly institution of marriage.

Copyright 2001 Harvey Karten

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