Film noir, almost by definition, implies seduction--usually a loner guy tempted by a dangerous dame, lured deeper and deeper by a siren's call to crime, deceit and doom. LONELY HEARTS is refreshing in its effective gender inversion: here a woman falls hard for the wrong man.
She's Alma Bates (Beverly D'Angelo), one of life's wallflowers. Pretty but overlooked, she lives with her grandmother Annie (Herta Ware), works at a Social Security office when not attending meetings of her self-help group for compulsive overeaters, and that's about it for night life. In
desperation, Alma turns to the personals ads in the LA Weekly for companionship and links up with Frank (Eric Roberts), a handsome rake who completely charms her. But it's already been revealed to the viewer that Frank is a heartless con artist who targets middle-aged, single ladies. He earns
their trust through romance, then siphons their fortunes and disappears.
Frank pulls his scam on Alma, but even after his betrayal she won't give up on him. Tracking the crook down through his vanity license plate, Alma gently blackmails Frank into letting her stay with him. She promises to help by posing as his adoring sister in the con game, giving support and
counsel in the finer points of victimizing women. All goes smoothly at first, but Alma can't stomach the thought of Frank repeatedly wooing and bedding other partners right in front of her. Meanwhile the net is closing on the pair: one of Frank's ex-lovers has hired a no-nonsense private
investigator, Erin (Joanna Cassidy), to track him down. When a failed scam results in murder the larcenous couple go on the run, ending when Frank takes Alma's grandmother as a hostage. Alma shoots him dead.
Producer, director and co-screenwriter Andrew Lane (MORTAL PASSIONS) knows this shadow territory well, and he upends the genre's conventions without violating them. Some thrillers portray dangerous females with venom bordering on misogyny, but LONELY HEARTS is more complex in its examination of
women as both predator and prey.
Glib psychologists would doubtlessly explain Alma's infatuation with Frank as a natural extension of her latent eating disorder: "Compulsives tend to transfer their obsessions." But Frank's diagnosis is more to the point: "Nobody gets conned who doesn't want to be." On more than one occasion Alma
tries to convince Frank to go straight, but he refuses, declaring that the life of a swindler is the only one he has ever known. Given a choice between leaving Frank--being alone again--and helping bury a corpse in the dead of night, Alma opts for the latter, until he turns on her own family.
Beverly D'Angelo, an underrated actress best known for comedy roles (NATIONAL LAMPOON'S VACATION, THE POPE MUST DIET), is excellent as the desperate heroine, neither pathetic nor unsympathetic as she's driven to extremes by her obsessive longing. As the homme fatal Eric Roberts (STAR 80, FINAL
ANALYSIS) does equally well, conveying that even Frank is a victim of sorts as his schemes backfire on him. Cassidy's pithy suporting part as the female detective emphasizes the sexual role reversals.
Lane errs in staging one rather gratuitous death early on, making the plot's later, lethal bent feel anti-climactic. The second half moves at a languid pace and leans a bit heavily on the mood music, but overall LONELY HEARTS shows how a familiar screen setup can be energized by a healthy infusion
of estrogen. (Violence, sexual situations, adult situations, nudity, profanity.)
Cast & Details See all »
- Released: 1992
- Rating: R
- Review: Film noir, almost by definition, implies seduction--usually a loner guy tempted by a dangerous dame, lured deeper and deeper by a siren's call to crime, deceit and doom. LONELY HEARTS is refreshing in its effective gender inversion: here a woman falls hard… (more)