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Review: ‘Heartbreaker’

Roman Duris Shines in French Romantic Comedy

Above: Vanessa Paradis and Roman Duris in "Heartbreaker."

Audio

Aired 9/22/10

KPBS Film Critic Beth Accomando reviews "Heartbreaker"

Transcript

A young man runs a business designed to break up relationships. That’s the premise of the new French comedy “Heartbreaker" (opening September 24 at Landmark's La Jolla Village Theaters.

According to Alex there are three types of women: those who are happy, those who are unhappy and know it, and those who are unhappy without realizing it. Alex targets the third group. He and his sister run a business in which Alex is hired out to break up relationships. So if you are a concerned father and your son-in-law turns out to be a jerk or if your best friend has just made the worst romantic decision of her life… well then you can hire Alex. He has a routine that works on any woman, in any language…

And it always ends with a kiss and heartbreak. You see Alex shows these women the kind of perfect love they could have but then he exits the scene and collects his fee. But his latest client Juliette proves to be a particular challenge mainly because she seems blissfully happy with her handsome, rich, and attentive fiancé. So Alex has to come up with a clever scheme to infiltrate her life.

Alex: I am the bodyguard.

Fiancé: Alex, isn’t it.

Alex: Well, everything’s all right.

Alex pretends Juliette’s father has hired him as her bodyguard and he uses that as an excuse to be with her constantly. This also allows him to show how much they have in common like an affinity for singing along to a George Michael’s song.

Roman Duris and Vanessa Paradis star in "Heartbreaker."

IFC

Above: Roman Duris and Vanessa Paradis star in "Heartbreaker."

But for the first time. Alex finds a woman who doesn’t immediately fall for him and that makes him fall for her. Romantic comedies are generally not my cup of tea but this French film goes down a little easier mainly because lead actor Roman Duris is so much fun to watch. He plays the role straight rather than going for the obvious laughs. But Duris finds considerable humor in the serious way Alex approaches his profession. Plus when it comes time for Alex to re-enact a scene from “Dirty Dancing,” Duris proves to have some great moves on the dance floor.

Unlike most American romantic comedies, this French counterpart is less hysterical in tone and therefore feels less like a contrived TV sitcom. This means “Heartbreaker’s” comedy is driven less by gags and schitck and more by character. Take for example the supporting cast. Alex’s sister Melanie and her husband Marc are nicely developed characters that join Alex on his missions and really get into their work. At one point, they flirt with each other but as the alter egos they’ve created for the job. The only problem is that Marc gets jealous of his own alter ego.

The actors make the comedy work here. Julie Ferrier (the contortionist from "Micmacs" has very malleable face perfect for conveying comic reactions, and Francois Damien is adept at physical comedy and hurt feelings. Together they are a delight, and make sure you stay through the end credits to catch a final gag from these appealing performers. Unfortunately, this trio of likable performers end up making the film’s dull leading lady look bad. Vanessa Paradis cripples the film with her lackluster work. Her performance is so bland that we simply can’t fathom how Alex can fall for her.

But despite Paradis, “Heartbreaker” offers a breezy trifle that arrives in theaters like a final effort to extend the sunny mood of summer. The film goes down easy like a cool drink on a hot day but it’s likely to be all but forgotten by morning.

Companion viewing: "The Beat That My Heart Skipped," "Girl on the Bridge," "Micmacs"

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