Heartbreakers

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Heartbreakers is the story of a mother-daughter conwoman team, Max and Page Connors (Sigourney Weaver and Jennifer Love-Hewitt respectively).It initially interested me because the idea of conwomen sounded interesting; it’s always the men who get to pull of elaborate schemes, a la Matchstick Men, The Italian Job and the Oceans series.

I was incredibly disappointed with it. Why? Because Max and Page’s conning is almost exclusively restricted to seduce-and-destroy tactics. In the opening scenario, Max has inveigled Dean (Ray Liotta) into marrying her by withholding sex. Then she continues to withhold sex after the wedding. Enter Page posing as his sexy, skimpily-attired secretary who maneuvers Dean into a compromising position. Instant divorce settlement. The rest of the move evolves around Max and Page trying for one last scores with a mega-millionaire while falling in actual love with men who conveniently happen to be very wealthy.

For sure, Max and Paige have a few petty scams which don’t rely on sex – pretending to slip on the floor of a posh hotel and then spilling water as leverage for a free room; sprinkling crushed glass into their meals to get comped. But for the most part, the tactics are sexual, from Page’s comically sexy outfits to Max distracting a guy at the petrol pump so Page can use his charge card.

The sad thing is, Max actually had potential because of the way she thinks on her feet – in one scene, posing as a Russian, her potential new husband William (Gene Hackman) takes her to a Russian club and she has to fake her way through the language. But this was an isolated scene and in the context of her playing a sexy Russian in distress because she is threatened with deportation and wouldn’t you know, if she marries an American, she gets to stay.

Oh, and then Max-as-the-sexy-Russian locks horns with William’s housekeeper, who has her eye on a cut of William’s inheritance and sees Max as a threat. Because female conwomen relying on seduce-and-destroy tactics isn’t tacky enough, no, we need a housekeeper waiting for her boss to cark it so she can inherit.

Why couldn’t we have a female conwomen movie with lots of cool gadgets a la Oceans, or a smooth-talking duo posing as postal workers or IRS agents a la Matchstick Men? Why did they have to be obviously sexy, and rely on sexual tactics? The closest I can think to one of the men in abovementioned movies using seduction tactics is Linus (Matt Damon) in Ocean’s Thirteen… and he still gets to spend most of the trilogy demonstrating his technical skills.

I wonder what Ripley would say if she were to meet Max.

Comments

  1. Charles RB says

    I saw bits of that film on a plane and couldn’t summon the interest to follow it fully. I do remember really not liking the characters that much, though the near-total reliance on seduction didn’t struck me as odd until right now when I saw this.

    Who was the audience for the film though? Because near as I can tell, I don’t think it was for me and other guys – and if it was, it should’ve had the gadgets and big elaborate heists and all that because that’s what we want to see (well, ones like me do).

    I did get the feeling this was aimed at women in a specific age bracket, which then begs the question of, as you say, why are they only using sex? Is that a big thing women want to watch other women doing? Or did someone, somewhere assume conwomen can only use “honeypot” tactics and that the target audience of women would also assume this?

  2. says

    Not to mention that Heartbreakers was such an obnoxious movie overall. That said, I completely agree with what you’re saying and have been wracking my brain trying to think of a good female con-woman movie (that isn’t about sex). But, nope. Nothing’s coming to mind. Ugh.

  3. Scarlett says

    Charles, I’m ashamed to say, when I saw it at the cinemas I enjoyed it and I was eighteen so I think maybe that’s the demographic – teenagers/young women who see it as a woman using her God-given sexuality (as defined by men) to get rich. Same female demographic that think the Pussycat Dolls are feminist icons, I think :p

    Fourthwave: the only woman who even comes close is Charlize Theron’s character in the remake of The Italian Job, who’s an expert safecracker… but in that movie she’s the token (traditionally beautiful) female and love interest, so I don’t know if they get points added or detracted for that :8

  4. SunlessNick says

    There’s Kim Basinger’s character* in The Real McCoy. She’s not a conwoman by trade, though her robbery strategy does involve elements of a con. As I recall, she uses “wiles” once (though not in a seduction), but also calls on one of the male characters to use his.

    My favourite scene though is when she happens to be in in a store, which is robbed rather ineptly, and she’s fighting not to crack up.

    * She is a mother though.

  5. Charles RB says

    Scarlett: I still remember seeing an ad for the Pussycat Dolls on AOL or somewhere, which had the “tonge in cheek” tagline Take That, Women’s Lib. Says it all…

    Still, at least now I know the demographic – the implications are a bit dodgy, aren’t they?

  6. Robin says

    I have to admit, I kinda like Heartbreakers, despite its obvious flaws that have been pointed out here. Yes, it’s shallow and the protagonists rely on seduction to get what they want. But beyond that, its about a young woman figuring out who she is and forging a more adult relationship with her mother.

    Plus… I’m kind of a sucker for Jason Lee, especially when he’s being all sweet and sincere.

    As for non-seductress conwomen, you’re right. I can’t think of any. Even when you expand the parameters to spies and other professional liars, the ranks are pretty thin. I think it comes down to our society’s image of the “bad girl” being synonymous with “sexy” and/or “slutty”. Well, that, and the notion that men are easily distracted by boobs. (And let’s face it, a lot of them are. Not to the degree of sharing state secrets or anything, though.)

  7. Scarlett says

    There’s Charlize Theron’s character in The Italian Job, but I find that a stretch because she’s primarily there to be the beautiful romantic interest.

  8. Raeka says

    Dupicity is a movie about two coporate spies working for rival companies who team up to con their respective bosses. There is a bit of seduction used as a con tactic –the woman used it on the guy when they first met, but this is sort of explained rather than an actual part of the movie– and later on the guy seduced a woman to get access to papers or something. I don’t quite remember, but I don’t recall sex being a huge part of their con style. It might be worth checking out– I liked it, but I’m not always particularly discerning about my movies…

    I’d love to see someone else with a more analytical mind review it ;)

  9. Anemone says

    There’s Glenne Headly in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. She’s sexy but plays innocent to get at her targets. I don’t know if she’d count or not but she’s worth checking out. If you haven’t seen it I’ve given the ending away. It looks like there’s a remake in the works: will it be better or worse? (My money’s on worse.)

    There’s an obscure Canadian film called Foolproof that has a team of three twenty-somethings who concoct heist plans they’d never carry out as a hobby, who are manipulated into helping a career criminal pull off a heist. The woman (Kristin Booth) is an athlete/personal trainer who does a lot of the physical stuff in the heist. It’s mostly not sexy, though she does end up with Ryan Reynold’s character in the end. But she’s not token at all.

    The scene with Theron’s character sitting around in her bra in The Italian Job remake was so token. But I liked her competence overall.

    I’ve never wanted to see Heartbreakers. I keep thinking I’d find it too painful to watch.

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