Monday, May 7, 2012

Jennifer Love Hewitt plays Norma Shearer

I got sucked into a Norma Shearer silent film, "A Lady of Chance" last night. Norma's a con woman who does well until she falls in love with one of her marks. The obstacle to their love is when the con woman's past comes back. This would be the template for the Sigourney Weaver, Jennifer Love Hewitt film "Heartbreakers," with Hewitt playing Shearer's role, and a dozen other films just like it (including "Wedding Crashers") Or so I thought.

Then I read reviews on IMDB and they said this plot was old when this movie came out in 1928. No matter, Shearer is hilarious. In order for this kind of movie to work as a comedy, the marks have to be deserving, and though they could be more comical, (think Gene Hackman in "Hearbreakers") they're deserving enough so they don't get sympathy.

Shearer has some very funny reactions when faced with a family that's poor but has plenty of love. She can barely conceal her contempt. It's refreshing to see some cynicism to what was (and is) a hokey movie trope.

I won't give it away, but there's also a hilarious pre-code joke about rough sex.

It moves along quickly, maybe a little too quickly. The main couple meet, fall in love and get married the same night! When Shearer decides real love may not be a bad idea we wish the male lead had a little more depth to him to love. She just decides to stick with him, where in a modern rom-com, he would have had some endearing quirks or traits she would reflect on to make her decide to *not* hop on the train to leave him.

There is a great scene of subtlety where Shearer puts on a veil, mugs for the camera at the thought of marriage, then you can see the wheels turn in her head as her face turns serious, Maybe marriage isn't for (as they say in "Wedding Crashers,")  'hillbillies" after all.

Very funny, very quick, well worth catching it on TCM.

And speaking of reviews, the New York Times review from 1928 is all spoiler. That critic was a dick! He gives away the entire movie.

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