Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: Pascal Chaumiel
Stars: Roman Duris, Vanessa Paradis, Juliet Ferrier, Francois Damiens, Andrew Lincoln Helena Noguerra.
This charming romantic comedy from France has been a massive hit in its native country, and is likely to find a responsive audience in cinemas in Australia.
Alex (Romain Duris) is a professional Lothario who wrecks relationships for a living. He is hired by worried fathers and families to seduce unhappy women, and empower them to leave their worthless boyfriends before it is too late. He has some firm rules though – there’s no sex, and he doesn’t crush their spirit. He’s very good as his job, as an extended prologue in the deserts of Marrakesh reveals. Alex is prepared to use any number of clever ruses to win over his prospective marks, and his ability to cry on demand usually seals the deal. He works with a team than consists of his sister Melanie (Juliet Ferrier), who does research on the potential clients and maintains the financial books, and her husband Marc (Francois Damiens), who provides the logistics for their elaborate deceptions.
Because he owes a considerable sum of money to mobsters Alex reluctantly accepts the latest job offer. Alex and his team travel to picturesque Monte Carlo where he has ten days to convince rich heiress Juliette (Vanessa Paradis) to leave her handsome, rich and seemingly perfect, but boring, fiance Jonathan (Andrew Lincoln). He assumes the role of Juliet’s chauffeur and bodyguard. But as the mission progresses he finds himself attracted to her, thus breaking the cardinal rule of his profession.
Heartbreaker is a lightweight romantic comedy that seems tailor made to suit Duris’ reputation as a Gallic heartthrob. Duris normally plays darker, more brooding roles (The Beat That My Heart Skipped, etc), but playing against type here he brings a raffish charm and confident swagger to his disheveled character. Duris also displays a nice affinity for broad comedy and energetic slapstick farce. And there is a palpable chemistry between Duris and Paradis (better known in this country as Johnny Depp’s partner), especially when they recreate the climactic dance scene from Juliette’s favourite movie Dirty Dancing.
Both Ferrier and Damiens brings plenty of humour to their supporting roles.
There are a few laugh-out loud moments throughout this frothy and enjoyable film, which cleverly plays with the usual conventions of the genre. First time feature director Pascal Chaumiel (a veteran of tv series and commercials, etc) maintains a light and breezy pace throughout. He throws in a couple of engaging subplots, the best of which involves the nymphomaniac Sophie (a scene stealing Helena Noguerra), Julie’s former best friend. She is desperate for sex, and her unexpected presence threatens to throw a spanner in the works.
Heartbreaker looks stunning, thanks largely to its attractive leads and the beautiful backdrop of Monte Carlo, gorgeously shot by veteran cinematographer Thierry Arbogast. Not since the earlier Gallic romcom Priceless has Monte Carlo been shown off to such superb effect. A bouncy soundtrack of ‘80’s pop songs (including Wham and I’ve Had The Time Of My Life) will also add to the film’s universal appeal.
Heartbreaker has the same sort of old-fashioned approach to sophisticated romantic comedy reminiscent of the Hollywood screwball comedies of yesteryear. It’s no wonder that Hollywood has snapped up the rights for the inevitable remake. It just remains to be seen if they manage to remove most of the charm and humour from the material.