Color, 1984, 98 mins. 51 secs.
Directed by Bobby Roth
Starring Peter Coyote, Nick Mancuso, Carole Laure, Kathryn Harrold, Carol Wayne
Fun City Editions (Blu-ray) (US RA HD) / WS (1.85:1) (16:9)
Any '80s movie fan can tell you it was a golden age for Los Angeles on film in all its neon-soaked glory, especially films like Body Double, 52 Pick-Up, and Miracle Mile. At the gentler end of the spectrum is Heartbreakers, a quirky little indie that got marginal theatrical play but won over a few fans when Orion issued it on VHS. More prolific for his mainstream network TV work, director Bobby Roth assembled an impressive roster of talent in front of and behind the camera -- including the recruiting of electronic pioneers Tangerine Dream for the soundtrack, which is now probably more famous than the film itself. Roth and Tangerine Dream would join forces again a few years later for the cable TV movie Dead Solid Perfect, which is also ripe for rediscovery.
Longtime best friends Arthur Blue (Bitter Moon's Coyote), a cutting-edge artist with a sexually provocative bent, and freewheeling businessman Eli Kahn (Nightwing's Mancuso) find their bond challenged as their lives in L.A. hit a crossroads. Arthur gets jilted by his girlfriend, Cyd (The Sender's Harrold), while Eli has to step up to the plate with the passing of his father. Both of them become transfixed by art gallery manager and aerobics aficionado Liliane (Sweet Movie's Laure), one of many factors that bring out their competitive sides and threaten to derail their connection.
Largely thanks to Coyote's profession, Heartbreakers looks like an '80s album cover sprung to life with colorful, striking cinematography by legendary Fassbinder lenser Michael Ballhaus. The entire cast delivers solid work with Coyote and Mancuso holding it together as buddies whose bittersweet rapport has an odd, frank charm to it that pays off in the subdued but effective final scene. It isn't a particularly showy film which may account for its subdued reception (no big "go for the Oscar" moments here), but the mixture of uber-'80s L.A. atmosphere and earnest dramedy results in something quite striking that should resonate with a lot of viewers today.
Never released on disc until 2022, Heartbreakers continues Fun City Editions' track record of reviving undervalued films on Blu-ray. The new 2K restoration from the 35mm interpositive looks excellent with the natural film grain left intact and all those wild colors really popping off the screen at times. Though the packaging doesn't note it, this is actually a longer version of the film with a steamier and more thrust-filled version of the third act threesome scene than what was seen in theaters and on VHS. You see worse than this on a lot of FX shows now, but at the time that was apparently enough to endanger its R rating. The DTS-HD MA 2.0 English mono track sounds fine for what it is, though the decision to not mix the film in stereo in the first place is a shame given how great the score is. Optional English SDH subtitles are provided, and a solid new commentary by Chris O'Neill and Bill Ackerman does a thorough job of addressing the film's place in L.A. cinema, the backgrounds of its director and actors, the subset of '80s genre-pushing films that mostly flew under the radar (a la much of Alan Rudolph's work), and much more. The Tangerine Dream score is also included as a separate track (in mono), which is nice to have as it preserves the film edits and mixes. Roth pops up for a brief video intro (28s) and a new interview, "Pieces of My Life" (35m44s), chatting about his lifelong connection to the City of Angels, his juggling of indie films and TV work, and his own personal experiences he channeled into the project. In "Mr. Amour and the Outsider" (20m7s), Coyote and Mancuso speak separately via Zoom about the attraction of the project to them, their disparate backgrounds that led to acting, and the qualities of the characters that make it a favorite among their filmographies. The extras officially wrap up with a 1m4s image gallery, but Easter egg hunters will also find the alternate R-rated edit of that sex scene (3m3s), a "Bobby Roth's Heartbreakers Tapes" (17m5s) collection of workprint snippets dropped from the final cut, and a TV spot. The package also comes with worthwhile insert booklet featuring essays by Richard Harland Smith and Margaret Barton-Fumo.
Reviewed on August 24, 2022