Rating: 3.5 out of 5
For a film that follows a genre as well-beaten as the romantic comedy, it’s always invigorating when one comes around that’s truly smart, snappy and well, romantic. Much like (500) Days of Summer last year, Heartbreaker (L'arnacoeur) is this year’s French equivalent of that unique flick that breathes fresh air into another year brimming with dolorous rom-coms.
Alex Lippi (Romain Duris best remembered from the fantastically intense The Beat That My Heart Skipped) runs a business that specialises in breaking up relationships. Together with his sister Mélanie (Julie Ferrier) and brother-in-law Marc (François Damiens), this team of heartbreaking professionals promise to bring an end to any relationship for the right price.
Even romantic con-artists have ethics though - Alex and his gang have vowed to only break up ‘knowingly unhappy couples’. However with his business heavily in debt, Alex is forced to take on a lucrative assignment that breaks this rule.
His latest mission involves driving a wedge between the charmingly intelligent and financially independent Juliette (Vanessa Paradis) and the man of her dreams, a courteous and great-hearted English philanthropist (Andrew Lincoln). Given only a few days to halt their impending marriage, Heartbreaker becomes an enjoyably frantic race against time caper.
There are heavy heist elements to this Parisian escapade, with scenarios of inventive espionage and suave trickery in frequent employ. The bulk of the comedy comes from the sterling combination of slapstick antics and rapturous wit that’s embodies the breezier side of undercover work.
Fake identities, elaborate disguises, and top-notch acting (Alex’s crying on demand act becomes a delightful recurring joke) are all part of the seduction game. The film opens dazzlingly with a slick Moroccan-based job that depicts Alex at the height of his powers. The film sharply quickly follows up with an Oceans-esque introduction to the team and a roll-in-the-aisles montage of Alex’s past conquests.
Despite its heist trappings, Heartbreaker is a romantic comedy at heart, and in that sense it is fairly predictable. You know from the start that amidst learning Wham! lyrics and Patrick Swayze’s dance moves (Juliette is huge a George Michael and Dirty Dancing fan it seems) that Alex is going to end up falling for his latest mark. There’s even a runaway bride and a dash through an airport during the climax to complete the trifecta of rom-com clichés.
Even so, the thorny chemistry between the two leads is so believably amorous and the humour is so charmingly winsome, that you can easily overlook its predictability. I’ve always firmly believed that a well executed unoriginal idea can be better than a poorly executed original one - and Pascal Chaumeil’s directorial debut is as indeed as assuredly accomplished as they come.
Heartbreaker is a zippy, energetic and well-acted romantic comedy that is far and away the best of its (admittedly shallow) breed this year.
About Hidzir Junaini
Hidzir Junaini, is 23-years-old and a wealthy playboy billionaire by day and a caped crusader by night. Only one of those is true. He’s actually a freelance writer, blogger, full-time film buff and some-time socially awkward nerd. He also writes about music, restaurants and nightlife for MetroWize Asia.
Hidzir was the winner of the inaugural inSing Movie Lover contest that garnered over 1,000 participants. The Movie Lover contest is a search for a candidate who possesses outstanding passion for movies and a talent for writing engaging movie reviews.