Marriage derailers for hire
by Molly Templeton
HEARTBREAKER: Directed by Pascal Chaumeil. Written by Laurent Zeitoun, Jeremy Doner and Yoann Gromb. Cinematography, Thierry Arbogast. Editor, Dorian Rigal-Ansous. Music, Klaus Badelt. Starring Romain Duris, Vanessa Paradis, Julie Ferrier, François Damiens, Helena Noguerra and Andrew Lincoln. IFC Films, 2010. 104 minutes.
|Vanessa Paradis and Romain Duris in Heartbreaker|
Perhaps some of you have a greater tolerance for deeply predictable, unflinchingly absurd French rom-coms than I do. Perhaps the tousled, cleaned-up-Russell-Brand face of Romain Duris is enough to keep some viewers engrossed in this fluffball tale of Alex, a fairly handsome man whose “job,” such as it is, is to break up couples. But wait! Alex — who works with his sister, Mélanie (Julie Ferrier, from Micmacs), and her husband, Marc (François Damiens) — has a moral streak. The trio only divides couples in which the woman is unhappy. But the woman doesn’t decide this for herself, see, because she might not know it yet. Her well-intentioned friends, colleagues or family hire Alex to do his thing, which, naturally, involves a lot of spying, research and general impersonation of his idea of what the woman needs to free her from her relationship.
It just so turns out that most women need the same schtick — a few tears, a proclamation or two, a story about how it’s too late for Alex, a reminder that they deserve better. I think this is supposed to be cute, and possibly show how thoughtful and sincere Alex, who never sleeps with his targets, is — but it’s quickly tiresome, as is the film. Alex’s latest mission involves a rich, confident woman, Juliette (Vanessa Paradis), who’s engaged to marry a bland Englishman in 10 days. (Zombie fans: Her groom-to-be is played by Andrew Nichol, who’s much more interesting in The Walking Dead.) Her pops doesn’t approve, but she’s distant with him and doesn’t care for his opinion. Alex, on the other hand, cares for the father’s money, which he needs to pay off a never-quite-explained debt.
Alex sets himself up as Juliette’s bodyguard, pretends to like what she likes and be interested in what she’s interested in and, naturally, finds he’s — gasp! — actually genuinely attracted to this girl. Why is she so special? Oh, who cares? Cynical and more glib than clever, Heartbreaker does have one genuinely sweet streak: the relationship between Mélanie and Marc, whose goofy but loving interplay has character and kick, thanks in large part to Ferrier, with her sad, warm, wide-eyed face. Watching them do their thing as Alex’s support team is almost enough to distract from the blandness of Alex’s by-the-book “seduction” of Juliette, the steps of which you’ve seen in every flick in which someone pretends to be someone they’re not in order to get someone else’s attention. To be fair, I’m relatively sure I’ve never seen a movie character learn the entire central dance piece from Dirty Dancing in order to fake-win another’s heart. But the sob stories, the unlikely similarities, the eventual regrets — not even the likably contrasting casting of scruffy Duris and sleek, sleepy-eyed Paradis can spice up the clichés littered throughout Heartbreaker, which, when you get right down to it, is just another movie about how women don’t know what they want until the right men come along to show them. Thanks, dudes.
Heartbreaker opens Wednesday, Nov. 24, at the Bijou.