Vanessa Paradis and Romain Duris in Heartbreaker

I should admit from the top that I’m kind of a sucker for just about any movie taking place on or near the French Riviera. To Catch a Thief, Priceless, The Girl from Monaco, you name it, there’s something about the sun-kissed, elegant, euro-romantic vibe the place gives off (at least they way it plays out in movies) that is irresistible. Take a couple of attractive actors and plunk them down on the beach somewhere between Monte Carlo and Saint-Tropez and I’m already half way there. It’s no surprise then that I fell for the French romantic comedy Heartbreaker. Set largely in Monaco, it fully capitalizes on its milieu to deliver a fizzy but endearing bit of Gallic fluff that gives the typical boy meets girl story a pleasing twist.

Romain Duris (The Beat that My Heart Skipped) plays the darkly handsome Alex, a confirmed ladies’ man who parlays his considerable confidence and skills with the opposite sex into a career as a breakup man for hire. In other words, he’s paid by concerned friends and family member to show women the real fireworks of love and romance so they’ll be inclined to dump their inadequate significant others. His one rule is that he only takes on women who aren’t really in love whether they realize it or not.

Alas, crushing debt and the unwanted attentions of a couple of collections thugs convince him to break his own rule and target Vanessa Paradis’ Juliette, a blissfully in love rich girl 10 days away from marrying her handsome, successful and devoted English fiancé. Complicating an already difficult mission, Alex naturally falls for Juliette. Will he be able to wrestle Juliette away from her perfect match? If he doesn’t, he may end up not only with broken legs, but a broken heart.

It’s sort of the opposite high-concept set up to Dane Cook’s My Best Friends’ Girl, but forget about that movie entirely. In the wrong hands, Heartbreaker could easily have been as dull and classless, but once again the French show why they’re masters at this kind of material and Americans so frequently aren’t. This is a pet theory of mine that will either be enforced or destroyed as an American remake of Heartbreaker is already in the works, naturally. There’s just something about continental attitudes regarding romance that come across as adult and charming while their puritan American counterparts come off snickering and immature. Is that just a puritan American’s perspective? I don’t know.

The big danger for Heartbreaker is that it threatens to paint itself into a corner. If you are to root for Alex getting the girl, you have to accept the fact that he’s wooing her with a gigantic lie. How can it really be love when only one party knows the truth and he’s using that truth for an unfair advantage? Forget about whether Alex wins over Juliette or not. The question becomes should he? Without telling you how it all works out, suffice it to say the conclusion is satisfactory and believable within the reality the film sets up.

Heartbreaker is not a substantial film, but it’s a funny and charming one. It requires a modest suspension of disbelief, but if you’re willing to go along with its game, it’s a frothily entertaining good time.

Heartbreaker. France 2010. Directed by Pascal Chaumeil. Screenplay by Laurent Zeitoun, Jeremy Doner and Yoann Gromb. Cinematography by Thierry Arbogast. Music score composed by Klaus Badelt. Edited by Dorian Rigal-Ansous. Starring Romain Duris, Vanessa Paradis, Julie Ferrier, Francois Damiens and Helena Noguerra. 1 hour 44 minutes. Not rated by the MPAA. 3.5 stars (out of 5)

5 Responses to “Heartbreaker (2010)”

  1. Opens in Atlanta on the 24th. Can’t wait.

  2. Me too, but not until October I think. I friggin’ love those French Riviera movies, most recently Priceless.

  3. You may well fall for this one as I did Daniel. It’s a little silly, but ultimately it charmed me.

  4. Nice review Craig. As always, a pleasure to read. It does sound like romantic fluff but I agree that the French/Continental variety often vibes as more adult and is generally delivered with greater charm than the Hollywood one. If the female lead is genuinely in-love with her betrothed, and she is presumably not completely wrong-headed in doing so – what are friends/family sufficiently concerned about that they would hire a break-up guy?

  5. That information is unclear in the early part of the film and I assumed that the father (the one who hires alex) is just a typical father who assumes any man is insufficient for his daughter. Alex takes the assignment anyway because he needs the money.

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