One of the many things the makers of Heartbreakers get wrong is making the con games executed by the mother-daughter team of Max (Sigourney Weaver) and Page Conners (Jennifer Love Hewitt) too obvious and unbelievable. The distinct pleasure in this type of movie, from the freewheeling comedy of The Sting to the analytical deconstruction of the con in House of Games, is letting the audience see how the suckers are reeled in slowly using their own greed — or submerged need — as bait.
The only attributes apparent in Max and Page are their Hollywood-perfect bodies and the ability to play coy seductresses who fuse virgin and whore into one. This shtick gets real old real fast. Director David Mirkin (Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion) tries amiably to spice up this lackluster film with a bouncy sound track and gorgeous locales, but the camera dwells so often on the tightly encased bodies of Weaver and Hewitt that any wit contained in the script (precious little to begin with) is drowned by their tag-team burlesque.
It’s lucky, then, that Heartbreakers is actually a romantic comedy in fancy dress. These women, whose livelihood is based on teasing and fleecing, come face-to-face with their biggest hurdle: love. While Max adopts a ridiculously fake Russian accent to ingratiate herself with the Palm Beach king of phlegm, tobacco tycoon William Tensy (a hacking, hammy Gene Hackman), she’s pursued by ex-husband No. 13, Dean Cumanno (Ray Liotta), a combustible mix of hair-trigger temper and unabashed devotion.
Meanwhile, Page, who’s anxious to get out from under her mother’s smothering influence, stumbles upon the sweet-natured (and immediately smitten) Jack Withrowe (Jason Lee), owner of a cozy, laid-back beach hangout-bar who has hidden resources.
Sly character actors both, Liotta and Lee are an absolute joy here. Their grounded, confident performances add a welcome gust of warmth to a chilly film which wildly underestimates men and women both.
E-mail Serena Donadoni at email@example.com.