Thursday, March 20, 2014



What a day it's been, unending drama! It all started with the disappearance of my darling husband Norman; he went off for cocktails with Robert Downey Jr. and simply vanished. Bobby was found wandering the streets and carted off to the drunk tank but Norman was nowhere to be found. I called my good friend, nurse Lynn, and started searching; we finally found Norman in the back of Chan's Chop Suey Palace where he was doing the dishes. He had somehow lost his wallet in his drunken revelries and been unable to pay the check. Nurse Lynn and I bailed him out and I called Madame Rose, my publicist, instructing her to keep it all out of the papers. I barely had time to make it to the studio for my make-up call.

David Fincher, our director, was ever so sweet after my sleepless night and is going to work the saddlebags under my eyes into a close-up concept for the Stall You Didn't Take number so all I had to was stand around against a green screen for special effects close-ups in the morning and was allowed to take the afternoon off. With my few free hours, I insisted that Norman escort me and nurse Lynn to a matinee to make up for his bad behavior and we chose the aptly named Heartbreakers at the local cineplex; it had Sigourney Weaver and Gene Hackman on the bill so we all felt it couldn't be too wrong.

After a dozen ear splitting previews for films we have no interest in seeing, the movie started. Norman, having over indulged himself a bit recently, kept falling asleep but I grimly stayed awake through the whole damned thing. Heartbreakers stars Sigourney Weaver and Jennifer Love Hewitt as a mother/daughter con team that operates a variation on the old Badger game. Mom comes on to a wealthy man and seduces him into marriage. Daughter, in disguise, then places man in a compromising position where mom can discover him. The two then live happily off the divorce settlement. This is actually a fairly nifty premise for a movie (as long as you don't think too closely about how they played the game when the daughter was eight) but this isn't the film to take advantage of it.

As the movie opens, their latest victim is Ray Liotta, a New Jersey mobster who operates a chop shop. Then, on the run from him and Anne Bancroft as an officious IRS employee, our dynamic duo heads for Palm Beach in search of the really big bucks. They find it in Gene Hackman, playing a grotesque elderly tobacco millionaire (which gives the movie free rein to indulge in as many gross smoking gags as it can) and soon Sigourney is spouting an accent that's a cross between Natasha from Rocky and Bullwinkle and Demosthenes with the pebbles and the two are off to the races. While the seduction of Gene is ongoing, and our two con-artists are making arrangements to work around his Mrs. Danversesque housekeeper (Nora Dunn), Jennifer Love Hewitt meets, sets out to conquer and falls for a young bar owner (Jason Lee) with a property worth 3 million.

The movie about the conning of Gene Hackman has some inventive comic moments, game performances from a couple of old pros allowing their abilities as farceurs to surface and isn't half bad. Sigourney Weaver obviously relishes her chance to play the comic baddie (which she did so well as in Working Girl ) and looks sensational in the glamorous get ups Ann Roth has designed for her. Gene Hackman loves stealing scenes with a gesture and has fun being genuinely repulsive. The romantic comedy movie with Jennifer Love Hewitt is a bore and not terribly well acted or written; but the other stuff is such fun, we patiently wait for the cut back to those scenes. A number of well-known faces pop up in small roles to flesh out the comedy. Jeffrey Jones, a great comic actor, however, is underutilized and looks like he's racing Marlon Brando for the title role in Moby Dick .

Unfortunately, two thirds of the way through the movie, Hackman disappears and the romantic subplot takes over completely and the movie turns into a treacle-tart melodrama that makes The Young and the Restless look like Tolstoy. Ray Liotta pops up again and he and Sigourney try to con Jason Lee using Jennifer Love Hewitt. Will the young lovers find true love? Will the con work? Do any of us care? I wanted the acid comedy of the first half back.

This is a film that smacks of focus groups and studio interference. I have the feeling that the original draft of the screenplay was much smarter in its final third but that it was dumbed down to give happy endings and to make unlikable characters likable and deserving of rewards. I'm sure the 17 year olds plucked off Melrose Avenue for the early tests wanted Jennifer Love Hewitt to be a nice person, even though the character is a nasty piece of goods, and compromises were made that throw the whole piece out of whack. As a consequence, I cannot recommend the film. If it shows up on cable some night, enjoy it, but fall asleep or wish for a rolling blackout as soon as Hackman bows out.

Lace body stockings. Overly anatomically correct male statues. Balalaika orchestras. Gratuitous Beatles musical moment. Luxury hotels. Beachfront bar hopping. Gratuitous lesbian waitress. Tobacco stained teeth. Card tricks. Gratuitous Ricky Jay (not performing said card tricks).

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