“Heartbreaker” – 4 STARS

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I’m a sucker for a good romantic comedy. Call me a softy but I really respond to them. Unfortunately the genre is in shambles as studios continue to pump out one lame, brainless rom-com after another. Maybe that’s why I get so excited when I actually find one worthwhile. Maybe that’s why I almost instantly rewatch it, knowing it may be a while before I get another good one. Such was the case with the 2010 French film “Heartbreaker”.

Okay, let me get this out of the way first. “Heartbreaker” is at times incredibly silly and like many romantic comedies it’s completely predictable. But that did little to quench my enjoyment of the film. For the most part “Heartbreaker” is smart even in its silliness and director Pascal Chaumeil wisely keeps the pace up, never allowing us to mull over the absurdity of some of the things we’re seeing. And then, by the end of the movie, I realized what a great time I had with the film and even that absurdity played its own little role in my enjoyment.

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The story goes like this, Alex (Romain Duris) runs a unique business that breaks up relationships. He works with his sister Melanie (Julie Ferrier) and her dimwitted but tech-savvy husband Marc (François Damiens) to create elaborate ruses that persuade women to break off their relationships. But the team has their own honor code. Alex never takes a job involving a perfectly matched couple and he never breaks up a happy relationship. Alex plays the handsome swooner of the operation. Melanie play the well disguised ground operative. Marc handles everything technical. We learn all about their operation in the film’s amusing opening. Alex wraps up a successful job with a series of over-the-top lines that sets the smitten target woman free and left me laughing at his scripted sappiness.

Alex is approached by a rich father with ties to organized crime who wants his daughter’s engagement to an Englishman ended. The wedding is in a few days and the couple seems happy, but Alex, knee-deep in debt with a loan shark, puts his rules aside and takes the job. The crew heads to Morocco where Alex meets the daughter Juliette (Vanessa Paradis) and poses as a bodyguard hired by her father. Juliette is a spunky and independent young woman and Alex finds out that the job is going to be more difficult than anticipated. As the wedding gets closer, Alex begins to run out of options. On top of that, things are made more difficult by the fact that he’s falling for her. Bet you didn’t see that one coming!

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The story is clever and the laughs are aplenty, but I thought the biggest treat was the cast. I had seen Romain Duris in a handful of other movies but never in a role quite like this. He is very funny and he wonderfully channels that good-looking arrogance and occasional knuckleheaded cluelessness. Vanessa Paradis continues to impress me with every performance of hers I see. She’s really good here playing it straight while the others around her have the fun. But she has her own funny moments that pulls some good laughs from the audience. Paradis and Duris have an odd but convincing chemistry and that’s a key ingredient to making this such an enjoyable experience. If you doubt me, just wait until you see the “Dirty Dancing” scene. I’ll just leave it at that.

As I mentioned there is a lot of predictability along the way and there’s nothing that will catch you by surprise. But the filmmakers and the cast know this and they never try to sell you anything else. It’s a rare romantic comedy that caused me to laugh a lot and to genuinely care about the characters. I’ve rewatched “Heartbreaker” a couple of times now to see how it holds up. It’s still funny. It’s still entertaining. It still leaves me extremely satisfied despite its few flaws. Now I hear that there is a US remake in the works. There’s no need in that. I would much rather this film get a bigger audience. It certainly deserves one.