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Movie Review: Heartbreaker

By Philip Martin

This article was published October 29, 2010 at 3:34 a.m.

— One of the reasons that so many Americans like French films is that we generally only get to see a certain kind of French film - the good ones. There are hundreds of mediocre movies released in Europe every year, but only a few of them filter into American theaters.

Pascal Chaumeil’s Heartbreaker is one of them, an intermittently pleasant time waster that - aside from the subtitles and the lower profiles of its pretty people - could pass for a dumb American romantic comedy. (Of course, there’s already a Hollywood remake in the works.)

That said, it’s not terribly offensive, and if you happen to fall in that portion of the Venn diagram where a Francophilia overlaps with a fondness for high-concept Drew Barrymore/Kate Hudson/Reese Witherspoon projects, then you’ll probably like Heartbreaker just fine. But understand this is not a grown-up Gallic sex farce.

It stars the diminutive Romain Duris (Paris, Le Divorce, The Spanish Apartment) as Alex, a philosopher gigolo whose specialty is breaking up relationships at the behest of uneasy parents, troubled friends and occasionally coldfooted fiances. He swoops in and charms the female partner, causing her to see what a mistake she’smaking by settling for the goon to whom she’s plighted her troth.

But like most movie gigolos, Alex has rules. He won’t interferewith a genuinely happy couple, and he doesn’t sleep with any of the women he’s paid to glamour away from their boyfriends.

And Alex also has a support team - his sister Melanie (Julie Ferrier) and her husband Marc (Francois Damiens) - who use high-tech surveillance equipment and elaborate disguises to assist him in his search-and-destroy missions.

What happens? Maybe you can guess. Vanessa Paradis - best known, perhaps unfairly, as Johnny Depp’s domestic partner - shows up as Juliette, an heiress engaged to what seems tobe a perfectly nice English millionaire. Normally Alex wouldn’t intervene. But he’s broke, and her father offershim 50,000 euros to break the couple up.

It doesn’t help that the more we find out about Juliette, the less we like her - her tastes run to ’80s junk nostalgia like Wham! and Dirty Dancing. She’s got a vulgar best friend. And if she’d pick the raffish Alex over her soft-spoken, classy fiance, well, she deserves him.

Heartbreaker really isn’t terrible - there are a few moments of manic slapstick and the actors are charismatic even when their characters are boorish. But it’s a movie for people who think movies are about wasting time.

MovieStyle, Pages 35 on 10/29/2010

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