You'll fall in love yourself
By Michael O'Sullivan
Friday, September 24, 2010
"Heartbreaker" is "Inception," without all the sleeping.
Like Christopher Nolan's sci-fi mind-bender, this delightful French romantic comedy is all about planting ideas in someone else's head. Except in this movie, the man who does it works while you're wide awake.
That would be Alex (Romain Duris), the handsome heartbreaker of the title. With his team of two assistants (Julie Ferrier and François Damiens, playing Alex's sister Mélanie and brother-in-law Marc), he hires himself out as a professional seducer of women around the world, breaking up couples by making the women fall in love with him. Or, rather, by making the women realize that they don't really love their partner. Alex, you see, has principles, only taking on jobs where the women are already miserable but just don't know it yet. His clients are the victims' concerned friends and relatives.
One more thing: He accomplishes all this without taking anyone to bed. "We open their eyes," Marc explains, "not their legs."
But the job has been getting a little too easy of late. Is it really that difficult to make someone who's stuck in a bad relationship realize that she could do better than the jerk she's with? Not when you look like Duris, the adorably scruffy Frenchman who has been charming the socks off American audiences for years in such imports as "L'Auberge Espagnole" and "The Beat That My Heart Skipped." It also helps that Alex speaks a half-dozen languages and has the backup of Mélanie, a formidable forensic researcher, and Marc, a tech whiz. Both are also on call as "Mission Impossible"-style impersonators, filling in as a chambermaid here, a handyman there, as necessary.
Unfortunately, the team is broke. From an economic standpoint, "globe-trotting home-wrecker" is a bad business model. That -- coupled with the fact that Alex is in debt to a violent thug (Patrick Massiah) -- is why Alex agrees to compromise his ethics just this once, accepting the task of breaking up a happy couple, for a much higher than usual fee.
His target: Juliette (Vanessa Paradis). She's in love with Jonathan (Andrew Lincoln), a wealthy philanthropist, and vice versa. They're due to be married in a few days, so there's a deadline. What's worse, Marc and Mélanie haven't been able to dig up a single skeleton in Jonathan's closet. Which means that Alex has to be not just perfect, but superhuman. His client, Juliette's wealthy gangster father (Jacques Frantz), sets him up as Juliette's bodyguard.
You can probably see where this is going. Jonathan may look good on paper, but he's dead boring. And let's face it, Paradis and Duris make one heck of a cute couple.
But the rom-com rewards of "Heartbreaker" -- and there are many -- aren't so much where it takes you, but how you get there. Scenes of a shirtless Duris practicing Patrick Swayze's moves from "Dirty Dancing" (it's Juliette's favorite movie) or allowing Juliette's nymphomaniac girlfriend (Héléna Noguerra) to stab his leg with a fork (it's complicated, but trust me, laugh-out-loud funny) are worth the price of admission.
In the end, though, like Alex, "Heartbreaker" isn't just smart and funny. It's the kind of movie that believes in romantic destiny so strongly, so convincingly, it just might end up seducing you.
Contains obscenity and sexy talk, comic violence and flashes of bare breasts. In French with English subtitles.