Tourist teases give up the Keys to satire

Movie: HeartBREAKeRS

Length: 2 hours
Studio: MGM
Release Date: 2001-03-23
Cast: Sigourney Weaver, Jennifer Love-Hewitt, Anne Bancroft
Director: David Mirkin
Screenwriter: Robert Dunn, Paul Guay, Steve Mazur
Music Score: John Debney, Danny Elfman
WorkNameSort: HeartBREAKeRS
Our Rating: 3.00

As a satire of Florida society, "heartBREAKeRs" has enough raw material to get Carl Hiaasen running scared. Most of its action is set in Palm Beach, where con artists Max Conners (Sigourney Weaver) and her daughter, Page (Jennifer Love Hewitt), search for a moneyed bachelor to be the patsy in their latest scam. Sailing across sunlit waters while debating the gullibility of various silver-spoon types, these daffy predators are in lockstep with our state's guiding philosophy: leisure through avarice, avarice through leisure.

The hope of a genuine orange-puncturing parody, however, expires early. Despite its specific setting, the film could be taking place on the Riviera, in Monte Carlo or at any other locale that would welcome the remaking of "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels," this time in drag. It's a cute throwback of a comedy, lacking in keen observation but spirited enough in its old-fashioned bad-girl posturing to win our eyeball-rolling affection.

The Conners women, we learn, are hardened grifters, unwilling to pay for anything that a sexy smile and a well-timed lie can secure for free. Sometimes, they obtain complimentary meals by sprinkling glass over their dinners and "complaining" to the management; other swindles are grander in scale, like having Max marry a wealthy rube and then flashing Page's nubile body at him, counting on the inevitable infidelity to bring about a hefty divorce settlement.

They use that flim-flam on Dean Cummano (Ray Liotta), a New Jersey chop-shop owner who Max marries, dupes and dumps in the movie's first act. (The wedding band at their reception is played by the West Coast lineup of Orlando-bred swing outfit Michael Andrew and Swingerhead; Andrew gets to announce "Now let's have one more dance with the bride and groom" before he's cut off by the sex-starved Dean and disappears from the film.)

The Cummano settlement is a hefty one, but trouble with the I.R.S. forces mom and daughter to attempt one last scam. Their mark is a decrepit, perpetually retching tobacco bigwig named William B. Tensy (Gene Hackman, not quite as funny as he should be). But Page is more interested in Jack Withrowe (Jason Lee), a barkeep at a seaside dive who may prove quite the diamond-studded pigeon himself.

Jack is the movie's kindest soul and the worst of its few outright mistakes. (He's even an amateur astronomer. Gag.) His exaggerated amiability, though, barely interrupts the film's happy reliance on cleavage shots, beyond-obvious innuendoes and naughty sight gags. The ladies get what they want by striking suggestive poses that would only look appropriate in a chiropractor's office -- one run by Benny Hill, at that.

Weaver is up for the game, making good fun of Max's social-climbing chicanery. But there's something self-conscious about her performance, which lacks the true sleaze Hewitt unexpectedly and eagerly supplies. Maybe age and deceit don't always beat youthful enthusiasm.

The supporting turns are a mixed bag. Liotta deserves every laugh he gets with his harmless-horndog routine, but Carrie Fisher looks barely alive in her brief cameo as Max's lawyer.

The movie's in pretty bad shape, too: Sloppy edits and bad dubbing abound. It's almost a shame to inflict such damage on a picture this benign. Max and Page never sink to murder -- they're hustlers, not black widows -- and a convoluted set of dodges saves them the indignity of having to sleep with their victims, either. "heartBREAKeRs" doesn't have it in its heart to really hurt anybody, and that's reason enough to embrace it as an endangered species of silliness.


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