Movie Reviews from the Film Gang

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March 30th, 2001- Heartbreakers reviewed by Carla Freccero

Heartbreakers, now playing at the Aptos Twin, Green Valley Cinemas, the Riverfront, and Scotts Valley Cinemas, is directed by David Mirkin of Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion and stars some fine actors, most notably Sigourney Weaver, Gene Hackman, and in a surprise twin cameo appearance, Anne Bancroft. 

Normally I relish chick flicks, and this one looked promising:  the story’s about a mother/daughter team of confidence women. Max, the Mom (Weaver—note the tellingly gender-neutral name) courts, seduces, and marries a rich guy (Ray Liotta as Dean is the first “trick,” a hapless Mafia chop shop owner).  The daughter, Page (played by Jennifer Love Hewitt) then gets the husband to cheat so the wife can catch him in flagrante and arrange a lucrative divorce settlement.   Hewitt plays surprisingly well next to her far more skilled and seasoned acting partner.  And Sigourney’s wicked and witty spiciness stands up well against Hewitt’s petite prettiness and sexy little booty.  

But the film suffers from careening, roller coaster registers in much the same way as Romy and Michele did:  at times full of witty and funny repartee, its slapstick and gag moments are jarring and lack conviction.  Gene Hackman as a cigarette company millionaire, Tensey, is especially grating, and one is left wondering why such a good actor would concede to such a lousy part.  And then there’s the hurtling descent into sentimentality and “true love,” which prominently features Jason Lee as Jack, the nice guy, who sees sweetness in the vixen Hewitt.

This could have been an unsentimental feminist comedy about wise women educating their naïve daughters to get the most out of a world that’s out to screw them (so to speak).  And the mother/daughter bond in this movie does ring pretty true:  Weaver and Hewitt pick at each other and fight.  When Hewitt strikes out on her own, Weaver spies on her.  In an interesting twist on the usual boy/man story, here the daughter Page is always trying to prove that she is skilled enough and tough enough to go solo and win Mom’s approval.  But when Max is in trouble, we get to see the dutiful daughter, like Alice Miller’s “gifted child,” give up what she wants to save her Mom.  Not the stuff of screwball comedy.

In Hollywood, however, Mom is never right.  Instead of Page learning a lesson in the ways of the world, Max learns a lesson in the ways of romantic love.  I was gratified that at least she’s allowed to keep her cynical and spicy worldly ways. Failed it is, and at 123 minutes, much too long.  But Heartbreakers has a lot of truth to tell about women and about mothers and daughters in particular.  And the best thing about it is that it’s proud to show us just how sexy, smart and seductive a woman of a certain age can be.  Looking for trouble at the movies, for KUSP and the film gang, this is Carla Freccero.

c Carla Freccero 2001