WFTB Score: 2/20
The plot: Mother and daughter scammers, landed with a massive tax bill, find themselves forced to work together for one last con. However, during their attempts to part an ageing billionaire from his millions, the couple find themselves faced with complications at every turn – not least the interference of (possibily) true love.
It doesn’t happen very often, but once in a while a film comes along that restores your faith in humanity. Equally rarely, thank God, comes a film like Heartbreakers which makes you want to give up in despair.
Superficially, Heartbreakers is a blackish comedy about a mother and daughter team who carry out cons on gullible men, for instance the one perpetrated against car body shop owner Dean (Ray Liotta). Dean is lured into marriage by the promise of sex with the mother, Max Conners (Sigourney Weaver), but when the wedding night passes with the marriage unconsummated he finds himself irresistibly tempted by his secretary, unaware that the nubile temptress is his new wife’s daughter Page (Jennifer Love Hewitt). Cue discovery, divorce and a big pay-off.
This scenario, and the film as a whole, makes three big assumptions: 1) All men will have sex with any woman if the woman acts sluttishly enough. 2) There are mothers, scorned in love themselves, who are happy to prostitute their daughters (when Love Hewitt says “I’m a pro,” I’m not sure if this is an intentional joke). 3) Any form of behaviour is excusable if the pay cheque at the end is big enough.
Because the film quite happily takes these three things as read, it provides us with characters whose minds are centred on sex and money. Max is spiteful, scheming and jealous; Love Hewitt is a stunning-looking woman, but Page is a horrible, horrible character, ignorant, foul-mouthed and obnoxious. No wonder that when the script tries to find a reason for Jason Lee’s endlessly forgiving good guy Jack to fall in love with her (apart from her obvious attributes), it’s because she’s “different.” The men fare no better: Liotta is a flip-flopping idiot, whilst Gene Hackman, as billionaire William B Tensy, is a repulsive, cancerous, red-nosed grotesque as Weaver’s new target. Jack apart, everyone in this film is stupid, spiteful and hateful: who is the viewer meant to identify with?
All of this might be redeemed in part if the comedy was funny. It’s not: it’s part juvenile, Liotta pouring ice down his trousers or Hewitt saying “Can I grab your nuts?”; part macabre, Hackman’s corpse falling ten stories then smothering Weaver in a necrophiliac pose; and part weird – Weaver’s rendition of Back in the USSR is awful and works on no level whatsoever. There is a pre-occupation with erect penises which either suggests the director has a hang-up about hard-ons or he merely thinks stiffies are unalloyed comedy by themselves. A lot of scenes end with one last joke which adds to the unpleasantness of the scene (Hackman, handing money to the police officer arresting his innocent housemaid: “See if you can rough her up a little.”) Worst of all, the Conners (and what a weak joke that is) run their con so badly, you scarcely believe they could wrangle free prawn crackers, let alone millions of dollars.
At the film’s climax, it turns out that the IRS’s demand for tax payment is just another con, set up by Max to prevent Page from going out on her own and possibly – the horror of it – falling in love during a con. Yes, she may be bitter about being landed with a baby by a man, but the lengths Max goes to ruin her daughter’s life are distasteful in the extreme. Of course the characters undergo a sudden conversion in order for Page and Jack to be happily married after all, but as the rest of the film has had a tiny, diseased black heart, you don’t believe this moment is remotely sincere.
My score for Heartbreakers might have been a little higher if this was a cheap, straight-to-video or a first feature by youngsters who didn’t know any better. You can make excuses for cheap crap, but not highly produced, meretricious rubbish like this. Recommended only to teenage boys without access to proper pornography to watch with one hand on the remote.