HEARTBREAKER (Dir. Pascal Chaumeil, 2010)
“My name is Alex Lippi – I break up couples for a living.”
So says the dapper Romain Duris at the beginning of this French high concept rom com. The high concept being that Duris, his sister (Julie Ferrier), and her husband (François Damiens) run a business designed to break up relationships.
We are given a tour of their methods which involve monitoring their targets through surveillance with Duris working his charms on them in a montage in which we see the master manipulator using the same lines and pushing the right buttons to make women of all kinds swoon.
In documentary fashion, his assistants explain that it never goes further than a kiss. Duris leaves the women, he describes as “unhappy without knowing it”, and they thank him for “opening their eyes.”
After that juicy set-up, Duris and Co. are hired by a wealthy powerful businessman (Jacques Franz) to break up the wedding of his daughter (Vanessa Paradis) to her affluent fiancé (Andrew Lincoln).
The catch is that the technically savvy yet still stumbling team only have 10 days to do so before the couple’s wedding.
Most of the film’s action takes place in a hotel in Monocco with Duris acting as bodyguard to Paradis. She dislikes him at first – which is a obligatory element of rom coms of course – but over time they develop the also obligatory will-they/won’t they chemistry.
Duris works on his “Dirty Dancing” moves (because that’s her favorite movie), has Wham! ready to play from a fake radio signal on command (because that’s her favorite music), and he eats Roquefort for breakfast (because that’s her favorite…oh, you get the idea).
With a soundtrack full of sprightly pop songs (most English language actually) the film has a hip snazzy pulse to it, but the predictable conventions make the whole package go from cute to cringe worthy in the second half.
There are enough chuckles if not full out laughs and the spirit is likable, but there is too much hit-somebody-on-the-head slapstick and the climatic rush to stop the wedding finale is such a cliché at this point that it reeks of narrative laziness.
The cast is not without charm though the beautiful Paradis seems far from committed to her character and her scenes with Duris do not have the required heat needed to tug on the audience’s heartstrings.
Like Duris does, the fair and only slightly funny HEARTBREAKER overestimates its charm throughout. It’s a piece of cinematic cheese that I’m sure some audiences will eat up, but I believe many moviegoers will find that such a tasty premise deserved way better.