“ Genre: Comedy / Suitable for 15 years and over / Director: Pascal Chaumeil / Actors: Romain Duris, Vanessa Paradis, Julie Ferrier, François Damiens, Héléna Noguerra ... / DVD released 2010-11-22 at Revolver Entertainment / Features of the DVD: PAL, Subtitled, Widescreen, Dolby, Surround Sound „
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"Heartbreaker" ("L'arnacoeur") is a 2010 French film directed by Pascal Chaumeil. I first became aware of it when my sister mentioned she had seen it at the cinema and raved about it. So when I spied the DVD in Fopp for £3, I decided to snap it up on her recommendation.
Alex Lippi is a professional "heartbreaker", paid to break up relationships and point out to women there's more to be experienced in life than being in a relationship with a dead beat bloke. He works with his sister Mélanie and her husband Marc who set up survelliance and work undercover with him.
Finding himself owing Euro50,000 he takes a job which gives him ten days to sabotage the relationship of Juliette, a cool, level headed Frenchwoman and her British fiancé Jonathan. Alex heads to Monaco with Mélanie and Marc, moonlighting as Juliette's bodyguard while she prepares for the wedding. The problem is Juliette and Jonathan seem to be the perfect couple, leaving Alex struggling to find a way to break the couple up and collect the payment he needs from Juliette's father.
"Heartbreaker" takes an extremely unlikely premise and turns it into a rip roaring romcom that is both enjoyable and well made.
Romain Duris is perfect as Alex, the man who can turn on tears by just squeezing his eyes together. He looks fantastic, can be romantic at will but also has excellent comic timing. When he smiles his face changes, and it becomes something of a joke in the film that he "looks like a dickhead" when he does. Duris is without a doubt the star of "Heartbreaker" and he carries the film off with aplomb. Vanessa Paradis plays Juliette and while I found some of the scenes she was in with Duris lacking in chemistry, she still convinces as the uptight woman who seems to have stopped wanting to live in her desire for stability. There's also no denying how photogenic Paradis is - the camera loves her.
The script gives an inkling of the wild side of Juliette with references to her love of George Michael music and the film "Dirty Dancing". There is a wonderful scene in the film where Alex, who is driving Juliette in the car tries to sing along to "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go" by Wham to impress her and is terrible. Paradis steals the scene by happily lip synching along to the song out of his view.
While Paradis and Duris are undoubtedly the stars of "Heartbreaker", the supporting cast is probably what makes the film. This is a film filled with larger than life characters and if you like films to have a grip on reality then perhaps "Heartbreaker" won't be for you because of that.
Julie Ferrier is hilarious as Mélanie, Alex's sister. She is a bit of a chameleon too, using disguise and fast talking to cover Alex's - and her own - tracks. Her timing is fantastic and she has a real chemistry with François Damiens as her husband Marc. Damiens is a revelation, especially in a scene where he is helping Alex learn Patrick Swayze's dance part in "Dirty Dancing". He is a lumbering presence in the film and my only regret was not being able to pick up the accents he uses in various acts of subterfuge in the film due to it being in French.
Andrew Lincoln is suitably boring as Jonathan, the super rich, super nice fiancé Alex wishes to get out of the picture. To be fair the part requires him just to be incredibly decent throughout which he does and he also manages to ensure the audience doesn't feel too sorry for him either to keep them on Alex's side.
Helena Noguerra has a far better role as Juliette's old friend Sophie, who acts as another indicator to the wild side lurking within Juliette. Noguerra's character behaves appallingly in the film - whether it be checking in to a luxurious Monte Carlo hotel with her nipple hanging out, or attempting to seduce Alex. Thank heavens for her appalling behaviour as her character is a joy to watch and really reiterates how boring Juliette has become with Jonathan.
Although this is undoubtedly a romantic comedy, the film includes action elements too and some great stunts, my favourite being one involving an oversized Serbian thug dangling Alex over a balcony.
Of course the only problem when watching a film in French when your French is as awful as mine is the fact you can't take your eyes off the screen or you may miss something in the subtitles. Much of the humour in the film is visual but there are some great one liners too, so watching this on DVD is perhaps the perfect way to go - you can at least go back if you miss something.
"Heartbreaker" is one of the best romantic comedies I have seen of late. I generally find the genre a bit predictable but this hits the spot with likeable leads, a fluffy story, glossy locations and plenty of genuine laugh out loud moments.
Where it perhaps loses points is in the lack of chemistry between Duris and Paradis, especially in the early scenes between them. To be fair to them when they do a dance routine from "Dirty Dancing" together towards the end things sizzle more but for all Duris conveys emotions as the heartbreaker it's not until very late on that his feelings for Juliette become really obvious to the audience.
The film has been bought up for an American remake but I can't believe they could make it any better than the original and as such I would recommend you watch this version - subtitles and all.
The DVD has several extras, all of which are subtitled. There are interviews with Romain Dumis and Vanessa Paradis, outtakes and deleted scenes along with the theatrical trailer.
None of the extras is particularly long with the focus on short, sharp "vox pop" type clips and as such they are not of much interest.
**FILM ONLY REVIEW**
I picked this film to watch, based on Andrew Lincoln, who I was a fan of from the Channel 4 TV show, 'Teachers' (although he's currently battling the undead in The Walking Dead). As such, although I'd read the synopsis about it being set in France, I expected it to be in English and a fairly standard rom-com. I got three surprises:
1) It was in French
2) Andrew Lincoln was hardly in it
3) It was very funny
The premise is that Alex (Romain Duris) is a professional heartbreaker, who along with his sensible sister and goofy brother-in-law manage to break up unhealthy relationships, usually hired by concerned friends or family. Desperate for money to repay loansharks, he takes on a job to break up the perfect couple in 10 days before their wedding. The problem is, Alex is starting to fall in love with her himself.
The characters are all loveable, and the film benefits from being French, as I think English/American actors would have over-exaggerated elements in their performances. In fact, Andrew Lincoln, the only English actor in the film, is the weakest in the bunch. He seems to be just drifting through the film, which makes me wonder why exactly the character needed to be English, other than to market the film better overseas and to lure in people like me.
Heartbreakers sets out to be an unconventional romantic comedy, full of mishaps and set-pieces but unlike similar films, there isn't a shock-value to the humour, which is refreshing and there were times where I laughed out loud (especially once the drunk slutty best friend turned up) because of a sudden increase of cruder humour, but overall I did like the mix of slapstick and humour from the faux sincerity that Alex puts on to impress women. Roman Duris comes across very charming to both the audience, and the girls who he woos.
I fully recommend this to anyone who likes an intelligent rom-com with a slight devilish hint to it. It is family-friendly, yet never feels tame. The climax to the movie feels more understated than other American rom-coms have been and there aren't any moments where it devolves into turgid sentimentality. I would happily watch a TV series based on the core premise to the movie as the plot and characters were very enjoyable. Just a note to Hollywood, no American remake please!
This Review originally appeared on my blog