Saturday, March 21, 2009

"Lonely Hearts" documents the spree of a notorious couple in the 40s


In 2007 Roadside Attractions and Samuel Goldwyn Company distributed the docudrama (produced by Millennium Films and Equity Pictures) “Lonely Hearts”, a "Bonnie and Clyde" story (sort of), in an “Eastern” context: a couple, pretending to be siblings, advertises in lonely hearts columns, swindles people and kills them in cold blood, back in the late 40s. Jared Leto and Salma Hayek play the evil couple (Ray Fernandez and Martha Beck), and John Travolta and James Gandolfini. The film takes us through a number of their “scams” and the violence that follows is gratuitous enough.

The story plays out in mid century New York City and in Michigan, where there are interesting extradition questions for the cops. The police cars have four red lights, and look a bit picaresque. The language of the cops is racy and sometimes racist (with the “N” word).

It seems like an ironic DVD (from Sony) to rent today, given the news reports of Internet scams and phishing in the past few years, along with the viral behavior of the financial markets, most of all the Ponzi Scheme of Bernard Madoff. The DVD has an extra on the making of the film as a period piece, and describes Jared Leto undergoing agonizing make-up preparations, including plucking hairs above his hairline to make it look thinning and receding. Actors go through a lot. I remember (in 1955, about the time of this film) being sensitive about having makeup put on me to be in a seventh grade operetta ("The Sunbonnet Girl") but under different circumstances I would not have minded. The extra also says that this film is about people (the couple) as evil as one can get (so is the next film reviewed on this blog; just look).

In the end, the pair get the electric chair in Sing Sing prison in New York State. Ray actually burns when he is jolted. The scene is more graphic than comparable scenes in “Capote” and “Infamous”.

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