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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » Heartbreakers (Blu-ray)
Heartbreakers (Blu-ray)
Olive Films // PG-13 // November 24, 2015 // Region A
List Price: $29.95 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Thomas Spurlin | posted April 12, 2016 | E-mail the Author
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The Film:

Consider what it's like to capture the schemes of a con artist for a movie, especially one with comedic undertones. Should the criminal maneuvers be convincing enough to keep the illusion of their con, or should the line between genuine emotion and "the job" be ignored while increasing the comedy with overstated mannerisms? It's a conundrum that becomes a prominent feature in Heartbreakers, David Mirkin's feature-length follow-up to his cheeky adaptation of Romy and Michelle's High School Reunion: whether the slipping, choking, glass-scattering antics of a mother and daughter team should be taken seriously or enjoyed purely for the absurdity of the situations created by them. While there's a level of craftiness to be admired in the trouble gotten in and out of by the duo, there's also a strong disconnect between the supposed talent of their roguish ways and what actually happens within their capers, earning more rolling eyes than chuckles at the ease of their flirtatious movement between situations.

After finishing up another marriage con job where the mother, Max Connors (Sigourney Weaver), works her magic as a potential wife to a wealthy suitor and the daughter, Page (Jennifer Love Hewitt), seduces the new husband and forces a divorce settlement, the pair find themselves in trouble with the government over their "business". Left penniless and in a rush to refill their bank account, the two set out to work one last, large score that'll set them up for life afterwards, a desirable outcome for Page sine she's now wanting to work on her own. While Max slips herself into the arena of the rich and famous, luring the attention of aging tobacco magnate William Tensy (Gene Hackman), Page splits her time between assisting her mother and pursuing her own conning options, which eventually lands her in the company of Jack (Jason Lee), a good-natured local barkeep. Morality, parenting, and the discovery of true love complicate their job as the time ticks down before they're eventually caught.

The weirdness of Heartbreakers begins at the wedding that starts everything off, where Max decides she'd rather dance with every single person in the dining hall than go off in private with her new husband, auto-body shop owner Dean (Ray Liotta). She shows odd personality quirks that raise a red flag about Max's grasp on discretion, and it's only the first of many throughout her adventures leading to the Florida coast. Sigourney Weaver's brand of humor -- aside from her delightfully self-aware turn in Galaxy Quest -- relies on subtlety and a balance between serious and comedic tones, which comes in conflict with the film's insecure grasp on the "realism" of her criminal endeavors. When she laments the shattered glass in her plate at a restaurant and goes on about the dangers of water spilled on a hotel floor, it never nails down the sense that she's a convincing con artist in the slightest. This isn't a slapstik or surreal type of comedy, either, so Max's successful "skills" end up just falling flat time and time again, becoming especially painful when she adopts a foreign persona.

Because of Max's dubious qualities as a con artist, the big caper itself in Heartbreakers becomes a source of annoyance, driven by things that just kind of happen for the mother-daughter duo -- modes of transportation appearing, tools of the trade at their disposal -- that require believing in them anyway to roll with the not-so-humorous punches. Page's youthful, derisive, and enterprising spirit offers diversions from it, though, from her awkward, smoky attempts at conning by herself to the waning mother-daughter bond with Max that complicates their communications. Being a support player on the cusp of independence instead of a key mastermind in the plan, she's given a bit more freedom to play with the boundaries of reality in her criminal activity, hallmarked by obvious showcases of the young actress' provocative beauty. When she pulls fast ones while wearing tight dresses and navigates the waters of unplanned romance with bartender Jack -- a predictably appealing Jason Lee -- there's enough cheekiness in her tics and one-liners to counterbalance the other less-forgivable absurdity.

Despite Gene Hackman as the wheezy, red-nosed mark and a fine comedic support structure featuring Nora Dunn, Jeffrey Jones, even small parts from Sarah Silverman and Zack Galifianakis, the wacky and borderline surreal happenings in Heartbreakers rarely tickle the funny bone. Potentially quotable lines and madcap situations continuously try to entertain, throwing car crashes, broken statues, and song-and-dance numbers into Max and Page's troubled scheming. All those situations have going for them is their outlandishness, though, alongside a caper -- and a persistently questionable romance -- that's increasing tough to believe considering how much the mother-daughter dup get away with based on their coarse, unconvincing abilities of deception ... and, quite frankly, the rampant foolishness of others. This isn't a brisk-moving sting, either, clocking in at over two hours, far too long to leave someone pondering the cinematic deception of these grifters and scoundrels.

Video and Audio:

Heartbreakers sneaks onto Blu-ray in a dated but serviceable 2.35:1-framed, 1080p AVC treatment. It's hard not to overlook the overly warm skin tones present throughout most of the film, but the shades of blue and green in the Floridian atmosphere counterbalance those hues well enough. Lots of print damage appears throughout the film as well, from small dots to a number of larger blotches, and a few scenes exhibit some jittering to them as well. Underneath all that, however, there are moments of nice details to be spotted -- the transparency of a wedding veil, the coarseness of facial hair, and the texture of a stone statue -- along with strong lines in a range of elevated shots and well-handled silhouettes without any aliasing. Contrast keeps details visible in darker sequences at night, and a veil of film grain covers the print throughout. It's a tolerable but not particularly satisfying rendering of the fifteen-year-old film.

The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track achieves much of the same kind of functional quality, keeping all dialogue easy to be ascertained but never having any strong moments that stand out from the limited sound design. The sounds of eating in a fancy restaurant, the chatter of an auction, and the commotion of insects and amphibians in the Florida night present a few moments of clear, noticeable separation across the front channels, as well as some faint activity traveling to the rears, but most of the full surround activity resides in the music. Subtle sound effects like the clank of dinnerware on plates and the spritzing of mouth sanitizer offer well-formed shots of upper-end clarity. Verbal clarity is the victor here, with nicely-formed and crisp tonality that exercises both the mid-range and upper quadrants throughout the film. In general, quite nice.

Special Features:

Along with a Trailer (2:19, 17x9 HD) and a long series of Deleted Scenes (22:14, 16x9), Olive Films have also included a vintage press-kit featurette called Laffes and Gaffes (11:45, 16x9 HD), which combines press-kit interviews within a few amusing topics about the making of the film, from real punches delivered on-screen to broken statue parts. More importantly, they've also included the vintage Making-of Documentary (22:12, 4x3), which edits together the same kind of interviews with cool behind-the-scenes footage into a fairly standard, overly enthusiastic, but enjoyable glimpse at the process of making the film: how it started as a father-son story, why they gravitated towards Gene Hackman for the role, and how David Merkin "coached" Jennifer Love Hewitt in the ways of sexuality.

Final Thoughts:

Heartbreakers thinks it's pulling a fast one over on the audience by assuming that its mother-daughter duo are capable con artists, but the odd, low-humor rhythm of their maneuvers proves otherwise. Sigourney Weaver, Jennifer Love Hewitt, and the supporting ast give dedicated performances, but the tenor of their characters really don't jibe with the film's intentions, hampered by a disconnect between the silliness of the criminals' persuasion and the fact that they're supposed to be skilled at their craft. Olive Films' Blu-ray looks and sounds fine enough, and contains a handful of extras fans will enjoy, but this one's a caper barely only worth doing once. Rent It.

Thomas Spurlin, Staff Reviewer -- DVDTalk Reviews | Personal Blog/Site
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