Jarv’s Birthday Series: Heartbreakers (2001)

Is there a genre in cinema that dies on its arse as hard as romantic comedy? I think not, and in particular, I struggle to think of a genre as genuinely failing as romantic comedy in the 21st Century. Even the much-lamented decline of horror hasn’t been as pronounced as this, and on this list are both *gulp* romantic comedies. I was horrified when I saw this run from 1999 to 2005 as you know you’re in deep trouble when the ambitious but hugely flawed Sim0ne is the best film there. Anyhoo, today’s Birthday review is the frankly terrible Heartbreakers (release date 24th August 2001), a film that manages to make even staring at Jennifer Love Hewitt’s boobs boring. 

The problem with Romantic Comedy as far as I can tell in the 21st Century is a question of both comedy and likeability. The success of the likes of American Pie (which is just Porkies without the anti-anti-Semitism message. Shouldn’t that be “Pro Semitism?” ) mean that the genre seems to try to outdo itself by becoming more and more gross. This is often achieved with one character becoming the butt of endless jokes where incredibly vile things happen to him for our amusement. The other problem here is that frequently the central character is absolutely loathsome, and it’s impossible for us to actually want his/ her relationship to succeed. Examples include My Boss’s Daughter (this is going to be a fun review), Just Married, Failure to Launch, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days and so forth. All of which feature at least one twat that we’re meant to want to have a successful love life and are completely shallow. There’s also usually a fair dose of humiliation in there as well, think about the singing in HTLAG. This is before we even get on to the fact that very, very rarely are they funny.

I don’t get it. This is the genre that threw out some classics like When Harry Met Sally, and now we’re lumbered with garbage such as that crap Mrs. Jarv reviewed earlier this year. Heartbreakers, sorry to report, is another one that fits right into this mould, being painfully unfunny, populated by arseholes and extremely gross on occasion. This is going to be a bumpy review, but I should really accept right now that these types of film are simply not for me.

Heartbreakers is about mother and daughter con team that run an extremely elaborate scam where they pick up potentially wealthy bachelors, mother gets them down the aisle and then in a contrived move finds them en flagrante with the daughter. Mother, Max (Sigourney Weaver) has been running this scam for years, and daughter Page (Jennifer Love Hewitt) wants to branch out on her own. The film opens with them setting up Ray Liotta’s Dean (actually you don’t know it’s a scam at this point). They get screwed by Anne Bancroft, and have to pull one last big scam to set themselves up for life. To this end, Max moves them to Palm Beach to run the scam on Gene Hackman’s Tobacco Mogul, but Page starts trying to screw Jason Lee’s nice-but-apparently-loaded Bar owner Jack. Hilarity singularly fails to ensue, I almost lose my lunch on more than one occasion, but it all works out in the end.

The first problem with this film is characterisation. Page frequently behaves like a twat, albeit a twat with spectacular juggs. However, it’s not her that’s the problem. The problem is Max. Max is phenomenally unsympathetic. She’s an aging con artist that won’t let her daughter out from under her wing and runs really incredibly large deceptions on her own daughter to ensure that she won’t leave. Even Liotta’s minor hood eventually becomes disgusted with her. Against this backdrop, we’re meant to root for Page making it with Jack, but she behaves dreadfully and makes it crystal clear on more than one occasion that she’s in it for the scam. Her eventual realisation that she loves him is but a prelude to Max’s really shitty (and embarrassing) action, but Page has already lost sympathy by taking a bet on him.

Then there are the male characters. Jack is basically just a “nice” bloke. That’s it, that’s all there is to him in the way of characterisation. Dean is a low-life scumbag minor hood, this is obvious, but he’s barely got any depth either. The tobacco baron, Tensy, (Gene Hackman) on the other hand, is truly, truly disgusting. His defining character trait is that he smokes too much, and the film makes great play out of how repellent he is. He’s also a bit of a disgusting reactionary old bore. Nevertheless, he’s not exactly a fully rounded character either.

Against this, the actors can only do so much. Love Hewitt is a surprisingly sparky presence, and let’s face it, looks great in a variety of low-cut costumes. Weaver tries her best, but the character is so hateful that she’s suffering a massive drag, and did anyone, ever, (outside of Galaxy Quest) buy her as a sex symbol? Liotta and Lee do their absolute best, with the former chewing plenty of scenery and the latter supplying little more than his natural charm in a badly underwritten role. Hackman, the old ham, on the other hand is having a blast, and relishes his vile old man role. Bancroft is completely and utterly wasted.

The next problem is that Heartbreakers isn’t funny. Not once. There are less laughs in this than there are in the average Bergman film. I’ll give you a prime example of the comic scenes here: the statue. Weaver, because Hackman is so gross, is trying to attract his attention by bidding against him for a statue with an erect penis. Unfortunately, Hackman suffers a coughing fit and Weaver wins the auction. Sadly, she can’t pay- so she engineers a situation where two porters accidentally snap the penis off. Oh, the hilarity! There is the occasional good line in the film- Liotta gets a few when he discovers the scam, but the whole affair feels so mean-spirited that they don’t raise more than a smile.

Overall, this is a terrible film. Had I not seen My Boss’s Daughter last night, then it would be getting a truly, truly deserved Orangutan of Doom. However, I can’t in all good conscience rate it as the same as that heap. The actors try hard, Liotta in particular, and despite how mean-spirited it is, it’s still comfortably better than the other contender. Against this, though, is that Heartbreakers is a mean-spirited Romantic Comedy that is neither romantic nor funny. It’s, given the subject matter, almost an anti-Rom Com. So, in the interests of balance, I give Heartbreakers half a Michelangelo’s David out of 4.

Next up is the hugely ambitious Sim0ne, a real case of an idea that’s almost impossible to execute as it deserves.

Until next time,

Jarv

The full list in this series:

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About Jarv

Workshy cynic, given to posting reams of nonsense on the internet and watching films that have inexplicably got a piss poor reputation.

33 responses to “Jarv’s Birthday Series: Heartbreakers (2001)”

  1. Droid says :

    I saw this way back when. All I remember from it is, is thinking Liotta was funny and whoever clothed Jennifer Love Hewitt should be commended. I recall it had a couple of chuckles, but mostly fell flat.

  2. Droid says :

    If you think about it, since the 90’s (the beginning of the end), the majority of romantic comedies are based on lies and deception…

    While You Were Sleeping… Lies about being the wife of a guy in a coma
    The Truth About Cats & Dogs… Hot dumb girl impersonates smart funny girl
    Picture Perfect… Lies about having husband or boyfriend
    My Best Friend’s Wedding… Tries to bust up a relationship on the sly
    10 Things I Hate About You… Hires guy to go out with sister of girlfriend
    Never Been Kissed… Impersonates a high schooler.
    Three to Tango… Lies about being gay
    She’s All That… Goes out with “ugly” girl on a bet
    Maid in Manhattan… Leads guy to believe she’s a socialite
    How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days… Both sides are on a bet
    Failure to Launch… Horse impersonates a human

    To name a few.

    • Jarv says :

      Failure to Launch… Horse impersonates a human

      Genius.

      It’s true, though. However, of that list a few of them, to be fair, are based on other stories:

      1) While you were sleeping= Sleeping Beauty
      2) Truth= Cyrano De Bergerac
      3) Maid= Cinderella
      4) HTLAG= An acid enema for your eyes.

      Depressing. I don’t mind, but Heartbreakers seems to be the apogee of this mean-spirited crap. The rest of them aren’t actually as evil tempered as this.

      • Droid says :

        WYWS is Sleeping Beauty?

        She’s All That (I think she’s so THAT because she can bring IT) is Pygmalion as well. And 10 Things is Taming of the Shrew, although I must’ve missed the eng lit class where we discussed where Shakey got the inspiration for the “big dumb combat boots” line.

      • Jarv says :

        Taming of the Shrew is the play you’re thinking of. Oh, and whoever wrote that needs a slap. That is not a sonnet.

  3. Continentalop says :

    I wonder why romantic comedies fail so miserably but their parent genre, the screwball comedy, weere so damn good? I admit I have a bias towards older movies, but c’mon, can you name as many great modern romantic comedies as you can screwball comedies (Philadelphia Story, His Girl Friday, The Lady Eve, It Happened One Night, Great Balls of Fire, Bringing Up Baby, Some Like It Hot, 20th Century, all off of my head).

  4. Col. Tigh-Fighter says :

    Gosh, yer a hard critic Jarv! lol I suspect you may be allergic to rom-coms

    I remember quite enjoying this, and though Gene Hackman & Liotta were quite funny in it.

    Its also the highest critic rated film that hewitt has ever been in. She was recently exposed as the least successful film star ever (based on RT reviews).

    A one and a half to two from me.

    • Jarv says :

      I do accept that I’m probably not cut out for them.

      However, I stand by this.

      Didn’t I know what you did last summer do better than this?

      • Jarv says :

        Hehehehehe!

        I can’t believe he’s lower than Seagal.

      • Droid says :

        Yeah, I remember seeing that at the time. It doesn’t work though, because it’s based on the RT score of the film. And she hasn’t been in that many films. It just so happens the one’s she’s been in have been turkeys. So maybe you could say that her being in a film is a sure sign that it’s going to be bad, but you can’t base a comment like “she’s the worst actress of the past 25 years” on these statistics. You’ve got that miserable cow Katherine Heigl to consider. The acting equivelant of a plank of wood, Madonna. The cum-dumpster Megan Fox. All worthy candidates.

      • Col. Tigh-Fighter says :

        I dont mind her really. She was pretty ok in Ghost Whisperer. She just picks bad films lol, not bad shows.

        Kathryn Heigl and Bland Fox are defo worse actors than her. Katie Holmes is pretty crap now I think about it.

        Best good, hot actress I’ve seen recently was Amber Heard in Drive Angry, which I thought was brillaint. And she was brilliant in it too.

      • Jarv says :

        Amber Heard though has Mandy Lane- which is unspeakable.

        I don’t think I’ve ever seen a film with Heigl. At least I can’t remember one/ having seen her in one.

        Katie Holmes is propped up by Batman Begins. Everything else she’s in is crap.

      • Droid says :

        We’re talking about performance, not the films they’re in.

      • Jarv says :

        She’s crap in it as well.

  5. just pillow talk says :

    Stay away from Heigl films Jarv. I don’t know who I find more annoying…Heigl or Hudson. I think Heigl because there’s not one single character she’s ever played that I didn’t end up wishing that character would get run over by a tank.

    Glad I’ve never seen this movie, even with that great set on display by Jen.

    • Jarv says :

      I’ve looked her up, and I’ve seen My Father the Hero and Under Seige 2.

      That’s all aside from 10 minutes of Grey’s.

      • Jarv says :

        S1m0ne review done for tomorrow. Not really sure about it.

        Mind you, I’m not really sure about the film. Still, I’ve got My Boss’s Daughter to review, and if I make it through that one without using the word cunt, it’ll be a minor miracle.

      • just pillow talk says :

        Then you wouldn’t be honest with yourself if it’s a cunty movie filled with a bunch of cunts.

  6. just pillow talk says :

    heh…for some reason after I wrote that, I had In Bruges in my head and started thinking about cunty kids. Just think about that movie instead and you’ll get through My Boss’s Daughter.

  7. koutchboom says :

    Bahahahah this movie was fun, I was surprised with how much I enjoyed it. Nicely mean spirited and it was fun to see Gene Hackman so miserable.

    • Jarv says :

      It’s too mean spirited for what it is Koutch- it’s a romcom of sorts, not a humiliation/ gross out comedy.

      • koutchboom says :

        Naw it was interesting it was nice to see characters so bitchy for once, not this sugar sweet thing. I thought Ripley was a blast in the movie, but I always enjoy her work, her and JLH were good together.

      • Jarv says :

        Ripley was terrible in this film- for a start, she’s not attractive at all. Secondly, the russian accent was atrocious- the dinner scene is terrible and humiliating. I usually like Weaver, but she was wrong for this.

      • koutchboom says :

        Naw she was fine, it was nice to see her cut loose with a role.

      • Jarv says :

        She tries hard- but the character is too loathsome.

        When she’s at her best in this film is the opening wedding scene.

  8. ThereWolf says :

    I watched it coz I liked the cast, thought it might be different than the usual ‘rom-com’. But I didn’t laugh much.

    Sorry… still thinking about Dushku doing porn. Only with Jennifer Love Hewitt now…

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