PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):
Max (Sigourney Weaver) and Page Conners (Jennifer Love Hewitt) are a mother-daughter con artist team. When the film opens, the Conners are settling a con on Dean Cumanno (Ray Liotta), an auto-body shop owner and small-time crook. The con, which the Conners have played a number of times before on other men, involves Max marrying Dean, passing out on their wedding night to avoid actually consummating the marriage, and then Page (posing as Dean’s secretary) luring Dean into a compromising position to justify Max’s immediate divorce and hefty settlement. The con is a success.
Page declares that she wants to go solo. Max initially relents, but when they visit the bank to split their earnings, they are confronted by an IRS agent (Anne Bancroft) who declares that they owe the government a considerable sum on top of the rest of their savings, which have already been seized. Page reluctantly agrees to work together with Max on one last con in Palm Beach (refusing to work anything cheaper as Palm Beach would result in enough money to pay off the I.R.S. and set up Page to work on her own). For their target, they choose widower William B. Tensy (Gene Hackman), a tobacco baron who is addicted to his own product.
Complicating matters is beachfront bartender Jack (Jason Lee), whom Page meets without her mother’s knowledge while attempting to go after a target she pointed out earlier (a doctor who inherited money from an uncle; Max rejected him on the grounds that he was a “momma’s boy”). Page learns that Jack is worth $3 million, having inherited the bar, and decides to target him for a side con. Page ends up developing genuine feelings for Jack, but Max, who has been hurt many times before, tells her to break it off; Page reluctantly ends the relationship.
Tensy proposes to Max ahead of schedule, but before they can get married, he passes out and dies due to his lifetime of smoking. While Max and Page are deciding what to do with the body, Dean arrives, having tracked Max down in order to propose to her again. Dean discovers the ruse Max and Page played on him, and threatens to expose them. Max offers to return Dean’s divorce settlement money if he’ll help them make Tensy’s death look like an accident. Max reveals to Page that the money wasn’t really taken by the IRS, and the agent had in fact been Max’s mentor, Barbara, in a ruse to prevent Page from leaving. But when Max, Page and Dean go to the bank, the money really has gone, liquidated in an act of betrayal by Barbara.
In order to help Max, Page decides to accept Jack’s offer of marriage, planning to work it as a regular con. Page insists that Jack will not cheat on her, but is heartbroken when during the wedding night she breaks into his room and finds him in a compromising position with Max. After the divorce settlement is paid, Dean confronts Max about the ethics of their con, pointing out that even a “goody-goody” like Jack is only human. Max reveals that Jack actually turned her down, and she drugged him, defending her decision by claiming that Jack would have gone on to hurt Page eventually. Dean counters that life is about pain, but that it can also be good, and Max has no right to keep Page from living her life just because of what might happen.
Chastened, Max tells Page the truth, admitting that her own efforts to protect her daughter from pain have only hurt her in other ways, recognising that Page has to make her own life. Page returns to Jack, giving him back the bar he’d had to sell to pay the settlement, and tells him her real name. Max and Dean also get together, Dean having admitted that he still misses Max even after what she put him through. The final shot of the film is of Dean — using the name ‘Stanley’ — romancing Barbara, with Max watching them via binoculars, implying that Max and Dean are now working together to get Max’s money back.
The first time I saw this was when it first came out on video. At that time I had grown to become a fan of Jason Lee, thanks to his appearances in Kevin Smith films. Also, Jennifer Love Hewitt was one of the hottest creatures on the planet, despite not really being in anything to make her a star except Party of Five, which I never watched. That couple with what, at the time, was an interesting trailer, drew me toHeartbreakers.
I can sum this film up by saying that it is about some scum of the earth people. What I mean by that is that this woman, Max (played by Sigourney Weaver), goes around scamming men by using her feminine wiles to get them to fall in love with and eventually marry her. After which, she has her daughter, who is also in on the scam, to seduce them leading to divorce where she gets a hefty settlement.
I’m actually not sure which part is worse, using her daughter, manipulating the guy, or the divorce. It is all disgusting, if you ask me. If this is actually done in real life…well, I don’t know what to say about that, really. However, as a plot device for this film, it seems to work as well as people crashing weddings seems to work in so many films.
A subplot of the film involves the daughter and her want to get out and do a scam on her own. As you can about imagine, her mother is having none of it, just like any other overprotective mother. She also doesn’t want to lose her business partner. Truth be told, with a hot daughter like that, scamming is much easier than being a middle-aged woman on her own.
Things get even more complicated when the daughter, did I mention she was played by Jennifer Love Hewitt, falls for a guy she sneaks off to scam. Apparently, it is a big faux pas to fall for your victim. Complicating things even further, the latest husband tracks them down and with original intentions of proposing, threatens to expose them after something, which I won’t mention, happens.
Yeah, so this isn’t a good film, by any stretch of the imagination. The story has its moments. It actually starts off pretty good, and then right as we get into the final act, and things should be pushing toward that final moment, we instead are forced to watch this limp noodle limp across the finish line. The audience can do nothing less than scratch their head and wonder why we sat through this whole thing.
I will give it to the casting directors, they captured some pure gold with Hewitt and Sigourney Weaver. They not only have great chemistry, but are quite believable as mother and daughter. Hard to belive they wanted Anjelica Huston and just about any other young, hot Hollywood actress for this. Then again, some of them most iconic roles in cinema have gone through the same process.
Hewitt not only has great chemistry with her “mother”, but also with Jason Lee. Watching them once they get past the initial hatred phase and into the loving stage is like watching a cute high school couple (before they get to that sickening need to be separated by a crowbar phase).
So, ultimately, what did I think of this flick? Eh, I can take it or leave it. This is one of those films that for everything good, there are two things bad. Would I recommend it? Not necessarily, but at the same time, it isn’t one of those films that will cause your head to explode if you decide to give it a go, just don’t expect to be blown away by some awesometacular pice of cinema, because that is not what you are going to get.
3 out of 5 stars