Review by Michael Jacobson
Sigourney Weaver, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Ray Liotta, Jason Lee, Gene
Director: David Mirkin
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Features: See Review
Length: 123 Minutes
Release Date: October 2, 2001
mother. She lives with him.”
pass…mothers are death.”
is just what
the doctor ordered, and arriving none to soon. At last, a sex comedy actually aimed at grown-ups.
seen enough films targeted to adolescent minds who think body parts, fluids, and
noises are funny. This movie aims
at the funny bone, but goes through the brain to do it.
It’s smart enough to be decidedly wicked, and best of all, faithful
enough to find the heart as though it were the logical place of conclusion all
along instead of some tidy packaging to wrap everything up in.
you think slipping a laxative into someone’s coffee is the ultimate in
wickedness, for example, you might be too young to appreciate the masterful
manipulations of Sigourney Weaver and Jennifer Love Hewitt as Maxine and Page
Conners, a mother-daughter con team who are masters of their game.
Maxine seduces and marries men with money, Page is the catalyst for
divorce. We see their operation
unfolding nicely in the opening, as Dean (Liotta), a crass chop-shop owner,
becomes unlucky victim number 13.
you think parents exist in sex comedies just to be made fun of, you may not
enjoy the witty, intelligent banter between Maxine and Page, who quibble just
like any typical mother and daughter might.
The absurdity of the background against which they perform such a normal
act elevates the material and makes it even funnier.
a school nerd is your best picture of a romantic antagonist, you could be
downright appalled at the depths Gene Hackman sinks into as William B. Tensy, a
tobacco millionaire hopelessly addicted to his own product.
The man oozes smoke, and coughs and wheezes repulsively.
But he is Maxine’s next intended victim…if she can stand to cross the
finish line with him.
Page, growing restless with her role as assistant, has her own designs on a
sweet-but-naïve bar owner (Lee), especially once she learns he has the chance
to sell his place for a cool $3 million.
becomes yet another source of strife between mother and daughter, as Maxine
begins to fear Page is falling in love…the death knell for their kind of con.
Like most mothers, she’s trying to pass on her knowledge to her kid,
and grows frustrated as her advice falls on deaf ears.
dialogue is priceless, especially in scenes where Maxine proves her superiority
in the game to her angry daughter. “Feel
my butt!” she boasts. “I’m
not feeling your butt again, Mother,” Page groans. “We all know it’s perfect.”
a team are Weaver and Hewitt…not only a lovely pair to look at, but actresses
with keen senses of comedy and an almost nonchalant candor about their sexiness.
Every man in the audience will believe these characters really are as
good as they come across in their game. Probably
better than half of them would willingly be the next victim, too.
not enough can be said about Hackman, a brilliant double Oscar winner who comes
across as you’ve never seen him before. He
is unafraid to inject Tensy with everything that’s despicable and withhold
anything that might induce sympathy. His
speech about nine year old kids loving cigarettes (“after they puke their guts
out at first”) is as biting as anything I’ve heard at the movies this year.
David Mirkin, who also made the very funny and underrated Romy and
Michele’s High School Reunion, once again demonstrates an ability to work
with a funny and talented pair of women. Once,
he helped create characters that didn’t have a clue. This time, he works with a pair that’s diabolically smart,
but the comedy rolls out just as smoothly as ever.
laughs didn’t surprise me, but the fact that the film showed a tremendous
sense of heart through all its bite did. And
as I mentioned, it doesn’t play as a typical “wrap everything up smoothly”
kind of artificial sentimentality. It
works because two ladies who are masters of deceit and manipulation find that
love doesn’t have to be a death knell for everything they believe.
They can and do love each other, and learn from one another that love can
indeed be beautiful as well as lucrative.
of course, money never hurts…
is a generally decent anamorphic offering from MGM, with a couple of flaws worth
mentioning. Darker scenes suffer
some loss of definition and a bit of grain, as well as some inability to contain
colors as well as they should. Lighter
scenes, of which there are many more, work better, with beautiful color
rendering and better detail, though some image enhancement is noticeable from
time to time, especially on monochromatic backgrounds in deep focus.
Flesh tones render very well, and the color palate is rich and full,
bringing the illusion of warm West Palm Beach to life.
is mostly a dialogue oriented picture, so the 5.1 soundtrack doesn’t make much
use of the rear stage or the .1 channel…they aren’t really missed, either.
Spoken words come across cleanly and clearly, and there are some moments
of dynamic range during key sequences of physical comedy.
The real highlight: the use
of John Lennon’s beautiful and underplayed ballad “Oh My Love”.
is an extraordinary package! Think
serious, then funny. For example,
there are two good commentary tracks included.
Track One is director David Mirkin solo…listen to it for all the
details, info and trivia you could want to know about the movie.
Track Two features Mirkin with leading ladies Weaver and Hewitt, which is
pure entertainment. There’s
giggling, jokes, and tall tales galore…not much info, but a joy to listen to.
Then, there are two featurettes. One
is a straightforward, informative, making-of piece with the usual cast and crew
interviews and production stories. The other is “Laffs and Gaffes”, which mixes bloopers
with interview footage discussing the various problems. It’s a blast, and a much better presentation than your
typical outtake reel.
that weren’t enough, there are 22 deleted scenes, with optional Mirkin
commentary. The prize:
an uncut reel of Weaver’s rendition of “Back in the USSR”.
There is also a trailer for this movie and a DVD promo for the special
edition of The Princess Bride.