Rated PG-13 - Running Time: 2:03 - Released 3/23/01

I must say this film exceeded my expectations. Heartbreakers, a silly comedy directed by David Mirkin (Romy and Michele's High School Reunion), while not a monumental icon of filmmaking, generally hits its mark thanks to a clever script and a cast with the ability to deliver the goods. Penned by Robert Dunn, Paul Guay, and Stephen Mazur (the latter two of which worked together on 1997's Liar Liar, among others), the story involves a mother/daughter con team who have made a career out of seducing wealthy men. Its surprisingly matched leading performers, Sigourney Weaver and Jennifer Love Hewitt, work well together, and their virtually all-male supporting cast, including Ray Liotta, Gene Hackman, and Jason Lee, flesh out the story in vastly differing roles.

The film begins during the wedding of auto dealership owner and known womanizer Dean Cumanno (Liotta) and his lovely new girlfriend Max (Weaver). After an uneventful wedding night (she falls asleep from too much champagne), he returns to work the next day terribly frustrated, only to be seduced by his sexy new secretary, Page (Hewitt). When Max comes in unexpected and finds the two in a compromising position, she sues for divorce, getting half of Dean's fortune in the settlement. Only then do we discover that Max and Page are working together, a mother and daughter who have perfected the con to a fine art. But just as Page, who is sick of her mother's domineering ways, decides to strike out on her own, the two are approached by an IRS agent (Anne Bancroft) saying that they owe nearly $250,000 in back taxes. They decide to stay together for "one big final score" to pay off the debt before Page leaves the nest.

The mark is Palm Beach billionaire tobacco baron William B. Tensy (Hackman), a crochety old man whose smoking practically has him in the grave already. Although Page reluctantly agrees to participate in the scam, she also becomes intrigued by a down-to-earth bar owner named Jack (Lee), who apparently has a $3 million offer to buy his establishment. As the scam on Tensy progresses, Page attempts to prove her ability to work alone by conning Jack, although Max worries that she'll become romantically involved. Soon the two cons become intertwined, and emotions begin to get in the way.

I have never seen Jennifer Love Hewitt in anything but the I (Still) Know What You Did Last Summer series, and I am pleasantly surprised by her talent as a comedienne. She is sensitive in the more serious scenes, but she also has the timing and delivery to support this film's clever comedic script. Weaver, not quite as believable, has her moments, especially when she dons a terrible Russian accent. Hackman and Liotta, who reappears later in the film, are quite amusing also. Not since My Cousin Vinny have I seen such an insubstantial comedy with such a dazzling variety of costumes; Hewitt and Weaver go through the clothes like fashion models on the runway, and they both look great.

Heartbreakers is no masterpiece, but it offers some funny moments and some good performances by actors generally accustomed to other types of roles. It might be better to wait for the rental, though, when you can go to the kitchen for a snack during the dumb parts and rewind to watch anything funny you may have missed. ***½

Copyright 2001 by John R. McEwen and The Republican

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